The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

Studies in Philosophy

The Relevance of Phenomenology to the Philosophy of Language and Mind Sean D. Kelly Between Deflationism and Correspondence Theory Matthew McGrath Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision Daniel Ellsberg The Explanationist Defense of Scientific Realism Dorit A. Ganson New Thoughts About Old Things Krista Lawlor Essays on Symmetry Jenann Ismael Descartes’ Metaphysical Reasoning Roger Florka Essays on Linguistic Context Sensitivity and Its Philosophical Significance Steven Gross Names and Nature in Plato’s Cratylus Rachel Barney Reality and Impenetrability in Kant’s Philosophy of Nature Daniel Warren

Frege and the Logic of Sense and Reference Kevin C. Klement Topics in the Philosophy of Possible Worlds Daniel Patrick Nolan Understanding the Many Byeong-uk Yi Anthropic Bias Observation Selection Effects Nick Bostrom The Beautiful Shape of the Good Platonic and Pythagorean Themes in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment Mihaela C. Fistioc Mathematics in Kant’s Critical Philosophy Reflections on Mathematical Practice Lisa Shabel Referential Opacity and Modal Logic Dagfinn Føllesdal Emmanuel Levinas Ethics, Justice, and the Human beyond Being Elisabeth Louise Thomas The Constitution of Consciousness A Study in Analytic Phenomenology Wolfgang Huemer

Dialectics of the Body Corporeality in the Philosophy of T.W. Adorno Lisa Yun Lee Art as Abstract Machine Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari Stephen Zepke The German Gı ta ¯ ¯ Hermeneutics and Discipline in the German Reception of Indian Thought, 1778–1831 Bradley L. Herling Hegel’s Critique of Essence A Reading of the Wesenslogik Franco Cirulli Time, Space and Ethics in the Philosophy of Watsuji Tetsuro, ¯ Kuki Shuzo, and Martin Heidegger ¯ ¯ Graham Mayeda Wittgenstein’s Novels Martin Klebes Language and History in Theodor W. Adorno’s Notes to Literature Ulrich Plass Diderot and the Metamorphosis of Species Mary Efrosini Gregory The Rights of Woman as Chimera The Political Philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft Natalie Fuehrer Taylor The German “Mittelweg” Garden Theory and Philosophy in the Time of Kant Michael G. Lee

The Immanent Word The Turn to Language in German Philosophy, 1759–1801 Katie Terezakis Discourse, Desire, and Fantasy in Jurgen Habermas’ Critical Theory Kenneth G. MacKendrick Volition, Rhetoric, and Emotion in the Work of Pascal Thomas Parker Heidegger on East-West Dialogue Anticipating the Event Lin Ma Gramsci and Trotsky in the Shadow of Stalinism The Political Theory and Practice of Opposition Emanuele Saccarelli On Mechanism in Hegel’s Social and Political Philosophy Nathan Ross Heredity, Race, and the Birth of the Modern Sara Eigen Figal The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault A Genealogy of the ‘Confessing Animal’ Chloë Taylor

The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault
A Genealogy of the ‘Confessing Animal’

Chloë Taylor

New York


Chloë. an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library. Milton or in any information storage or retrieval system. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic. without permission in writing from the publishers. Confession. 1. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www. mechanical.tandf. 2008. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks. and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.T39 2008 128'. including photocopying and recording. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Taylor. now known or hereafter I. or other means.” © 2009 Taylor & Francis All rights reserved. New York.First published 2009 by Routledge 270 Madison Ave. cm. p. BV845. Title.eBookstore. Abingdon. 1976– The culture of confession from Augustine to Foucault : a genealogy of the ‘confessing animal’ / Chloë Taylor.4—dc22 2008012993 ISBN 0-203-89056-6 Master e-book ISBN ISBN10: 0-415-96371-0 (hbk) ISBN10: 0-203-89056-6 (ebk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-96371-8 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-89056-1 (ebk) . Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. — (Studies in philosophy) Includes bibliographical references and index. NY 10016 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square.

Brock. and Cydney .For James.


Contents List of Figures Acknowledgments Introduction 1 2 3 4 5 Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation Confession and Modern Subjectivity Psychoanalysis Confessing the Other Alternatives to Confession Figures Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index xi xiii 1 13 66 116 167 191 236 250 255 283 295 .


Artemisia Gentileschi. 7.Figures 1. Susanna and the Elders. Susanna and the Elders. 1647. Susanna and the Elders. 17th Century Artemisia Gentileschi. 1622. 12. 1612–13. Giovanni Biliverti. 13. Titian. 11. 1610. Lucretia. 1998. 10. Kathleen Gilje. c. Artemisia Gentileschi. Kathleen Gilje. 4. 8. 1621. Susanna and the Elders. 5. Judith Beheading Holofernes. 1636–40. Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. Tarquin and Lucretia. Rembrandt. Susanna and the Elders. Artemisia Gentileschi. 1598–99. 1998. Caravaggio. Restored. Artemisia Gentileschi. 2. etching and engraving. 1590. Annibale Carracci. Tarquin and Lucretia. 6. 9. Susanna and the Elders. Restored. 3. Judith Beheading Holofernes. X-Ray. 1568–71. Peter Paul Rubens. 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 . Susanna and the Elders. 1630.


. encouragement. helpful criticisms. as “The Confessions of Annie Ernaux: Truth. Matthias Fritsch. and Repetition for its Own Sake. and Robert Bernasconi for their careful readings. and insightful comments on this work over the past several years. Mark Kingwell. Ladelle McWhorter. Amy Mullin.” I would like to thank Symposium and the Journal of Modern Literature for permission to reproduce these articles here. Autobiography.Acknowledgments I would like to express my gratitude to Rebecca Comay. Part of Chapter Five was previously published in Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy as “Alternatives to confession: Foucault’s ‘fragments of an autobiography’” (Spring 2005). Part of Chapter Two was previously published in the Journal of Modern Literature. volume 28. number 2 (2005).


THE TRANSHISTORICAL VIEW OF CONFESSION In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston writes that her main character, Janie, is “full of that oldest human longing—self-revelation. [ . . . ] So Janie spoke.”1 In an early work, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Breuer offer a medical explanation for this longing when they write of the “curative effect” of confession: “It brings to an end the operative force of the idea which was not abreacted in the fi rst instance, by allowing its strangulated effect to find a way out through speech [ . . . ].”2 Writing of a different kind of confession, that which takes place in police interrogations and courts of law, American Chief Justice Warren Burger states that “The human urge to confess wrongdoing is, of course, normal in all save hardened, professional criminals, as psychiatrists and analysts have demonstrated.”3 In the opening lines of The Psychology of Confession, Erik Berggren combines these views on confession when he writes: It is common human knowledge that talking about painful and disturbing memories or experiences which have lain on our minds unburdens us of them and affords a sense of relief. This means that such recollections or experience may be felt as a weight. They induce a psychic pressure which can create worry and depression. The pressure, as if by its own force, impels a release; the process may take the form of a powerful need to make disclosures, to speak openly about oppressive secrets. This need fi nds expression in two ways: either in personal confidences to a trusted friend or as a written description. In the latter case, the memories involved have perhaps left the writer no peace until he “got them out of his system.” The cathartic element involved is of importance in explaining the genesis of all literary confessions since Saint Augustine’s Confessions. 4 This paragraph introduces Part One of The Psychology of Confession, which is called “A Phenomenology of Christian Confession,” and thus these attributions of a transhistorically cathartic or psychologically-curative aim


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

and effect of confession is being made for Christian confession from the time of Augustine to today, as well as, later in the book, for psychiatric confession, confidences in friends, and “all literary confessions” from a few centuries after Christ to today. Similarly assuming that the function of confessional practices would have been the same for Augustine as for later writers such as Rousseau and as for autobiographers today, Peter Brown argues in his influential biography of Augustine that the writing of the Confessions was an “act of therapy” for a man who was undergoing a form of mid-life crisis. Putting thing in distinctly modern terms, Brown writes that Augustine was “com[ing] to terms with himself” and was engaged in “an attempt to fi nd himself.”5 Brown thus attributes to Augustine reasons for which modern subjects commonly confess. Also assuming continuity in confessional practices over a vast period of time, Shlomit Schuster writes that “Rousseau’s Confessions can be called the eighteenth-century version of Augustine’s autobiography,” and claims that each philosopher wished to “reveal his own true self.”6 Georges Gusdorf traces the autobiographical urge back to Adam and Eve.7 In Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation, Thomas N. Tentler initially aimed to show that confession in the Middle Ages and Renaissance functioned to respond to the psychological needs of penitents, and was a practice of consolation, curing anxiety, in the way that secularized forms of confession such as autobiography, psychoanalysis and art therapy are often assumed to function today. Medieval and renaissance priests were thus to be re-cast by Tentler as proto-psychoanalysts. Penitents, in turn, were to be recast as proto-analysands and autobiographers, much as Brown sees Augustine. Unlike Berggren and Brown, Tentler soon realized that this thesis was untenable, that the history of confession is in fact “long and varied,” that the institutionalization of confession did not occur as a response to a desire, compulsion, or need to confess on the part of the laity but was the invention of something new and difficult, and that confession was designed to instill anxiety as much as to cure it, to control and to discipline as much as to comfort.8 In an interview, Michel Foucault, like Tentler, would explore the link between psychoanalytic practices and Christian confession while recognizing that this link is one of developing and unpredictable disciplinary power, and not one of continual and unshifting discipline, nor an ahistorical response to an innate psychological need.9 Moreover, even while pointing out similarities between Christian confession and contemporary psychoanalysis, Foucault demonstrates the novelty and surprise of Christian confession, its difference from ancient and medieval penitential practices, the resistances it encountered, the violence with which this habit was inculcated in Christian bodies, the additional novelties of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, and the transmutations which occurred over confession’s history between antiquity, the Middle Ages, and our own times. Foucault thus stresses diversity rather than continuity, contingency rather than

Introduction 3 transhistoricity, and the possibility of resistance as well as the production of docility. A particularly dramatic example of the resistance-submission to confession to which Foucault points is the early modern phenomenon of possession, in which the bodies of Christian women were experienced as battlegrounds where devils and confessors fought. Unlike the receding phenomenon of witchcraft—which also involved eroticized, corporeal possessions of women by devils and Satan—possession concerned not marginalized, barely-Christian women, but women at the heart of the Church, and women in convents in particular. As Foucault writes, “Rather than someone who is denounced by another person [such as a witch], [the possessed woman] is someone who confesses, and who does so spontaneously.”10 In possession, bodies made to submit to daily spiritual direction, to “a constant discursive fi lter of life” and to “the practice of permanent autobiography,”11 fell into convulsions, cursed their confessors, writhed at their feet, seeking them out erotically and in some cases getting them killed, spat out and vomited the host, simultaneously confessing that it was the devil that made them do so, at once confessing and rejecting the direction of confessors, desiring and submitting to their confessors even while endangering them, torn between combating forces. Foucault argues that possession was a spectacle of involuntary resistance to confession: The convulsive flesh is the body penetrated by the right of examination and subject to the obligation of exhaustive confession and the body that bristles against this right and against this obligation. It is the body that opposes silence or the scream to the rule of complete discourse, the body that counters the rule of obedient direction with intense shocks of involuntary revolt or little betrayals of secret connivance. The convulsive flesh is at once the ultimate effect and the point of reversal of the mechanisms of corporeal investment that the new wave of Christianization organized in the sixteenth century. The convulsive flesh is the resistance effect of Christianization at the level of individual bodies [ . . . ] What witchcraft was to the court of Inquisition, possession was to the confessional.12 What this example suggests is that confession, far from being experienced as “that oldest human longing,” was in fact difficult to inculcate into bodies. Foucault’s brief discussion of the phenomenon of possession, along with his discussion of confessional practices in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction and shorter writings from the end of his life, can be considered as fragments of a genealogy of confession. In the pages that follow I would like to piece together and supplement these fragments, or to provide a genealogy of what Foucault called the “confessing animal.”


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

A GENEALOGICAL APPROACH TO CONFESSION In “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Foucault opposes genealogy to the history of historians who “assumed that words had kept their meaning, that desires still pointed in a single direction, and that ideas retained their logic.”13 According to Foucault, the work of historians has for the most part functioned conservatively to inscribe the present onto the past, to fi nd affi rmation in history for what has happened to emerge. Historians seek to bolster assumptions about the necessity of the present state of their thought, morality, desires, and bodies by fi nding this state of affairs in other times and places. By charting a continuous history that resembles the present, historians make that present appear universal, and then deduce that it is innate or revelatory of the “human.” Following such histories, questioning and re-evaluating the present and ourselves would be to struggle futilely against essence or human nature. According to Foucault, historians have fulfi lled their desire for stability and coherence by fi nding recognition in the past. The past is searched in order to “rediscover” the present and ourselves. As Foucault writes, “We want historians to confi rm our belief that the present rests upon profound intentions and immutable necessities.”14 In particular, we assume and expect history to confi rm the primacy and immutability not only of our values, but especially of our sentiments, desires, instincts, and bodies.15 In searching the past to fi nd affi rmation of ourselves, however, historians project the present upon the past while obscuring “countless lost events.”16 In contrast, genealogy, or what Nietzsche calls “effective history,” realizes that “What is found at the historical beginning of things is not the inviolable identity of their origin; it is the dissension of other things. It is disparity.”17 Genealogy “disturbs what was previously considered immobile; it fragments what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined consistent with itself.”18 With genealogy there are no constants—not even bodies, instincts, or desires, and certainly not morality: “Nothing in man—not even his body—is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men.”19 What genealogy does is less importantly to offer its own coherent narrative than to refute essentializing histories which impose the sameness of the present onto the diversity of the past. Genealogy strives less to give us a new story than to deprive us of the consolations of totalizing histories. While genealogy, as an alternative history, troubles totalizing histories, it does not trouble genealogy that it is itself but one possible way of describing history, that another historian would write history differently, for genealogy embraces disparity and has no ambition to be the fi nal word. Genealogy shows that history, and the persons who inhabited history, are other, and that what we are is not determined by the past or by a human nature to which history attests, but is accidental. Genealogy does not so much provide an alternative and “true” reading of history as set about destroying the

Introduction 5 essentializing histories which already exist, bereaving us of their comforts and forcing us to rethink who we are. Foucault writes: “[t]his is because knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting.”20 Genealogy shows that all histories which have claimed to be objective in their searches for origins, of timeless metaphysical or philosophical truths about human nature, have in fact sought the historian himself at the origin, or have been autobiographical ventures. Histories are not objective, but tell us about the historians who wrote them, and yet they present themselves as objective. Genealogy is also autobiographical in that it is always given from the perspective of the author, betraying her biases. The difference is that genealogy recognizes and even affi rms this situated perspective—genealogy is self-consciously and overtly political—whereas totalizing histories attempt to disguise their biases, and to present themselves as unmediated facts, universal truths, and insights into “human nature.” According to Foucault, “The fi nal trait of effective history is its affi rmation of knowledge as perspective. Historians take unusual pains to erase the elements in their work which reveal their grounding in a particular time and place, their preferences in a controversy—the unavoidable obstacles of their passion.”21 In contrast: Nietzsche’s [genealogical] version of historical sense is explicit in its perspective and acknowledges its system of injustice. Its perception is slanted, being a deliberate appraisal, affi rmation, or negation; it reaches the lingering and poisonous traces in order to prescribe the best antidote. It is not given to a discreet effacement before the objects it observes . . . 22 While essentializing histories will claim to discover philosophical truths and objective knowledge of human nature, and in so doing maintain and reinscribe the present, genealogy searches the past for an antidote to the present, and presents historical facts selected from a politically-invested perspective in an attempt to disturb that current status quo and thus open up a space for change in sites which were considered to be innate and immutable: the body, instincts, sentiments, desires, morality, knowledge, reason, truth. As such, Foucault writes that genealogy “has a more important task than to be a handmaiden to philosophy, to recount the necessary birth of truth and values [ . . . ]. Its task is to become a curative science.”23 Genealogy is politically engaged; Foucault writes, “Let us give the term genealogy to the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today.”24 This means that although genealogy considers the past and “is gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary,” it is also always self-consciously written from the perspective of the present, and in particular with the political aim to “cure” that present. More modestly, genealogy may disturb the totalizing histories which posit inevitable continuity, and

Consequently. a genealogy of confession will.”25 A genealogy is structured by the totalizing histories which it seeks to refute. much as Nietzsche points out that a genealogy of “man” will . but also lie tacit in the assumptions about confession found in the writings of Breuer and early Freud. If this describes genealogy. Finally. what will a genealogy of confession entail? C. Zora Neale Hurston.6 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault can do so in such a way that alternatives to the present (now shown to be contingent) can be thought. Examples of such histories would include the studies of Gusdorf and Berggren. Totalizing histories of confession will search for their Augustines and will establish them as exemplary. will also read Augustine. while a genealogy of confession. memoirs and talk shows. but to show its contingency and its difference or absence in other eras. Instead. however these are not concerns to preserve the present or to see it reflected in the past. A genealogy of confession will also read more obscure texts. but the episodes chosen will be selected not for their similitude with the present. or for the manners in which they confi rm our present sentiments and strivings. being some of the sites which we most tend to understand as innate or origin-al. it will not offer us the consolation of having “understood” the past and thus the present. as other interruptions in the totalizing story being told. Such histories and assumptions about confession believe that an immutable psychic need to confess can be traced continuously from Augustine (or even earlier) to the medieval development of the Christian confessional. However. . G. a genealogy of confession will be the historicization of an instinct and a desire—instinct and desire. In the case of confession. ] needs the historians’ grand narratives because without them it would lack a counterpoint. genealogy uses history to cut open the present in order to create the space in which transformation can occur. and more generally in popular notions of psychology which fuel the industry of therapy. To pick up Foucault’s terms again. Prado writes. such as medieval confession manuals and the bodies of seventeenth-century nuns. Peter Brown. will draw on facts from the “entangled and confused parchments”26 of the past. will thus be invested with the author’s concerns for the present. these totalizing histories are the ones which assume that there is a transhistorical human need or psychological compulsion to confess. A genealogy of confession. “Genealogy [ . like all histories. like reason and the body. in contrast. A genealogy of confession. for the ways in which his Confessions disrupt universalizing claims about confession. but for his alterity. but for the manners in which they put pressure on assumptions made about confession in the present. to Rousseau and from there to contemporary psychoanalytic and autobiographical practices. and will be read in ways which recognize the historian’s own experiences and desires. like other histories of confession. be episodic and incomplete. The Augustines will in turn have their differences obscured. . and Justice Burger cited above. like all histories.

but rather a monkey. The text is written “aloud” in so far as one is delivering it to another in one’s imagination.” In the passage from The History of Sexuality: An Introduction cited above. or thinking what we are.” Foucault defi nes confession as “To declare aloud and intelligibly the truth of oneself. a confession. reconcile. compulsion. at the origin. is always made in the presence of another. at least the virtual presence. in bed) “self-examination” rather than confession. doing. or think. since one doesn’t confess without the presence. but it will separate out. who recounts his day (aloud or in writing) to Seneca. but also of our system of values or morality.Introduction 7 not show a man.” or one which is always told with difficulty and shame. Finally. from the contingency that has made us what we are.” a genealogy of confession will show that a desire for confession is not to be found at the origin. in which confession seems an inevitable outcome not only of our psychological makeup and of our social bonds (familial. imposes it.”27 CONFESSION AND ITS STAKES In “Subjectivity and Truth. Instead. defi ning confession as: a ritual of discourse where the subject who speaks corresponds with the subject of the statement. for Seneca requires and imagines no listener other than himself. the possibility of no longer being. Foucault again describes confession as a self-referential utterance which requires a relationship with another. pardon. Foucault goes on to defi ne confession in two more signifi cant ways. it is also a ritual which unfolds in a relation of power. Our present.” 28 For Foucault. it is “a ritual where truth is authenticated by the obstacles and resistances that it has had to lift in order to be formulated. Foucault will call Seneca’s examination of his day’s activities to himself (silently. punish. and intervenes to judge. 29 A case of a “virtual” other for Foucault is found in the practice of autobiographical writings in which one projects a reader even if one never in fact intends to offer one’s text to her. To cite Foucault again: “this critique will be genealogical in the sense that it will not deduce from the form of what we are what it is impossible for us to do and to know. First. punitive). in contrast to his contemporary Serenus. of a partner who is not simply an interlocutor but the agency that requires the confession. it is “a ritual . thus destabilizing all attempts to tell a universal history of “man. such a declaration. erotic. as is the claim of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. which Foucault calls “confession. the instinct. In The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. and desire to confess will be shown to have developed in accidental ways. will thus be shown to be contingent and to admit of antidotes and alternatives. weighs it. console. do.

even a declaration that. both in terms of what confessional truth can mean for Foucault and in terms of what it can mean following readings of authors such as Jacques Derrida and Peter Brooks. Foucault said: “Let me announce once and for all that I am not a structuralist. too concerned) with how the subject is formed as an object of knowledge and domination. . intrinsic modifi cations: it makes him innocent. ] where articulation alone. in the person who articulates it. As such. and I confess with the appropriate chagrin that I am not an analytic philosopher—nobody is perfect. is related to his reknown for having. and is changed by what she says. on the other hand. promises him salvation.”33 and yet Foucault still wants to discuss a living and becoming subject of some sort. and at the end of his life he interprets his work retrospectively according to the claim that. declared the death of “man. Rather.”32 Foucault explains. and which are told despite claims of repression. If the defi nition of confession in “Subjectivity and Truth” may eventually need to be qualifi ed. can be called a confession if the subject fi nds this hard to say. Foucault notes that in most of his works he had been concerned (and. or with difficulty and shame. confessions as understood here are statements which claim to explain the being of the subject who is speaking. the defi nition in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction will serve throughout the current work.8 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault [ . despite the apparently blatant structuralism of works such as Les mots et les choses. it redeems him. purifi es him. which utterances change her in manners to be explored in Chapter Two. produces. he reproaches himself. In a lecture given in 1980. In his fi nal works. will be considered in Chapter Two. Foucault would remove the more flagrantly structuralist terminology from his work by the time of the English translation of The Order of Things. which are introspective. one has been wronged—for instance that one has been abused by a family member—or that one is in love.”31 Whatever the irony of the second half of this “confession. through studies of subjects in institutions such as the asylum and the prison.” of the author. along with structuralist thinkers such as Roland Barthes. all of his writings function as a “genealogy of the subject. and not merely as a weapon of murder. Foucault is concerned with how the self knows and creates herself. . rather than declaring its death. Following this account. “This genealogy has been my obsession for years because it is one of the possible ways of getting rid of a traditional philosophy of the subject. and an analysis of how she is created and dominated by social forces all but drops away. and the notion of truth that can be at work in this claim. confession is not to be narrowly defi ned as only those speech acts avowing wrong-doings.”30 The requirement that confession tell the truth about the subject. far from having done wrong oneself. looks inside herself to say it. In both cases—in the studies of techniques of domination as in the studies . or of the subject more generally.” Foucault’s concern to distance himself from structuralism. independently of its external consequences.

invented and re-invented. and almost exclusively analyzes manners in which she acts upon herself in the fi nal writings. Foucault seldom draws out this overlapping and complementarity in his writings: having fi rst emphasized discipline in his studies of the modern period. both in ourselves and in our circumstances. Several Foucault scholars have however demonstrated the interconnectedness and inseparability of discipline and self-care which Foucault in theory insists upon.Introduction 9 of techniques of the self—speaking the truth about the self is a privileged form of subject formation. These two processes will always “overlap” and together make up “governance.”36 As he elaborates: “By this phrase ‘political dimension’ I mean an analysis that relates to what we are willing to accept in our world. 35 In the fi rst three chapters of this book. but also. Foucault intended that we understand how we came to be what we are. we can make ourselves other than what we are. such that rather than confessing to what we are. Although in practice Foucault mainly discusses manners in which the subject is acted upon throughout his genealogical writings. Such a genealogy of confession is important for what Foucault calls its “political dimension. to recognize the contingency of this being and of this manner of subject-formation. to accept. I will also note the manners in which the balance between the two shifts over time. to refuse. with complementarity and confl icts between techniques which impose coercion and processes through which the self is constructed or modified by himself. a “versatile equilibrium. 39 . and will consider the ways in which subjects can tip the balance back towards self-care. more importantly. Self-reflective discourse is thus a crucial technique both of domination and of self-care.” 37 By describing confession as subject-forming. I will attempt to stress the interconnectedness and inseparability of discipline and self-care. and the treasury of historical alternatives that exist and which can be drawn upon. This exploration of the historical forms which confession has taken from antiquity through modernity hopes to shed light on the production of the confessional subject today.” which Socrates himself “advises” (“What I don’t advise is that we remain as we are”38). in principle Foucault will claim that techniques of domination and techniques of the self are always interwoven. becoming increasingly disciplinary.” he writes. This “becoming other than what we are. the early Christian period. while piecing together and supplementing the genealogy of confession which Foucault traces through antiquity. and to change. he amends this by almost exclusively analyzing autonomy and self-formation in his researches into antiquity. is how Foucault came to defi ne philosophy.”34 Unfortunately. as noted. and in the modern era. and is as such a significant theme in both the genealogical writings and the fi nal writings of Foucault. arguing that even paradigmatically disciplinary practices such as therapy and dieting can also be described as technologies of self-care. of being acted upon and of acting upon oneself.

as found in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. found in Berggren and Brown but also in many introductions to autobiography as a literary genre. “Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation. Drawing on works by Jacques Derrida. while these same works and examples. Chapter One. drawing on his writings on self-examination in antiquity. and legal confessions. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. while Foucault scarcely mentions Augustine. and it will do so in order to undermine the “commonsense” claims made for the impulses which motivate confessional practices today.” will take up and expand upon Foucault’s fragments of such a genealogy over this extended period of history in the West. and what alternatives to it have historically existed.” will continue to explore the history of confession. it will be argued that confession is in fact structurally inclined towards untruth. Nevertheless. forgiveness. “Confession and Modern Subjectivity. and the writing of contemporary confessional writers Annie Ernaux and Nelly Arcan. also betray the hopes with which subjects enter psychoanalysis and write autobiographies. their failure to bring catharsis or psychic relief or admiration from others. These chapters will examine how modern confessional subjectivity was formed. Foucault does not ever discuss psychoanalysis in depth. Paul de Man. This chapter will also consider periods and texts which Foucault’s extant work does not examine40: for instance. and confession in the early modern period. their failure to bring closure and their unpredictability in attaining the subject acceptance. to which disappointment the latter most often bears witness. early Christian penitential practices. while Chapter Three will turn to psychoanalysis. For these reasons this chapter will focus on legal and autobiographical confessions. Chapter One will include an analysis of Augustine’s Confessions in order to counter the assumption. Psychoanalysis is perhaps the paradigmatic activity of what Foucault calls the “confessing animal. This chapter will also question Foucault’s emphasis on the truth-telling function of confession and on the spiraling pleasures of confession as he describes them. While the structural proclivity of confession towards untruth seems particularly pernicious with respect to legal confessions. beginning with the Counter-Reformation and Foucault’s discussion of confession in the modern period.” and is a confessional and disciplinary practice to which he frequently refers. will be drawn upon to indicate the spiraling displeasures of confession. Chapter Two. and Peter Brooks in order to consider Rousseau’s Confessions.10 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault THE CHAPTERS The fi rst three chapters of this book will follow and supplement Foucault in writing a genealogy of the long and varied history of confession. and contrary to his treatment of psychiatry. the displeasures of confession. and love. For this reason Foucault has been accused of treating psychoanalysis only . that Augustine’s project is the prototype of autobiographical confession as we know it today.

Through readings of Nancy Miller. or from the one who speaks to the one who listens. psychoanalysis can simultaneously function as a practice of discipline and self-governance. the confessional other is expected to respond in such a way that she reciprocates the subject’s confession. and hence as an ethical demand. Judith Butler. While in the fi rst three chapters I will have followed Foucault in describing the manners in which the confessant is coerced to speak confessionally.” Chapter Four thus entails a shift of focus from the confessional subject to the confessional other. Jean-Paul Sartre. Emmanuel Lévinas. the particularly modern confessional phenomenon of psychoanalysis can be described as both an ethical engagement with the other and a modern technology of the self comparable to those found in Foucault’s studies of ancient Greece and Rome. As such. Several authors have suggested that while Foucault only ever describes psychoanalysis as disciplinary. this will have hoped to establish that alternatives to confession are both . The question motivating Chapter Three will be whether. and Derrida. or attempt to ascertain whether psychoanalysis is inherently disciplinary or whether it has attended to the problematic features which Foucault notes. Chapter Three will consider these arguments. and forgiveness. If the fi rst four chapters will have explored the historicity and hence the contingency of confession as well as some of the problems of confession. psychoanalysis can be adapted and subverted to individual ends. Although the fi rst three chapters will have focused on the confessing subject. While remaining wary of the normalizing dangers of psychoanalysis. despite Foucault’s critiques of the practice. This relation will become the explicit focus of Chapter Four. confessions made for the other—in fact violate her freedom and alterity. auto-critiquing and correcting the very problems to which Foucault points. an account of the listening other and of the relation between confessor and confessant will already have been consistently present. in Chapter Four I will be interested in the manners in which the listening other is expected to respond or counter-confess in equally circumscribed manners. community. and as a technology of self-care on the part of analysands. and this anticipation of a counter-confession on the part of the confessional other is frequently presented as a call for recognition. After having presented Foucault’s critiques of psychoanalysis. it will be argued in this chapter that the demand for the other’s confession—and failing this. “Confessing the Other. Foucault is said to have not attended to the manners in which psychoanalytic theory and practice have developed over the years. and potentially analysts and analysands can adjust the balance between the two in order to subvert the disciplinary effects of the practice which Foucault has shown.Introduction 11 generally or abstractly and thus drawing his conclusions too hastily. ultimately it will be argued that like any practice. psychoanalysis may in fact function not (or not only) as discipline but instead (or also) as an ethical practice of care on the part of analysts. In particular.

but consistently puts Foucault in dialogue with other philosophers in order to take the topic of confession in new directions. and is also a positive manner of experiencing the self in relation to others. and the political and philosophical practices of feminism more generally. the examples of self-fashioning which I am interested in have been practiced by women in the past and today.12 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault possible and desirable. as well as his description of his own writings as “fragments of an autobiography. second.” I will also consider the paintings of the seventeenth-century Carravagista Artemisia Gentileschi and the writings of feminist art historians who study her. which for Foucault can be a means of resisting discipline and practicing freedom. The remainder of the chapter will be concerned with non-confessional and self-fashioning forms of autobiographical practice. The fi rst alternative to be considered is autobiographical silence. the final chapter will consider such alternatives to confession. This book is Foucaultian in outlook and methodology. whereas Foucault not only dismissed the possibility of female selffashioning in antiquity. Consequently. but each chapter also either diverges from Foucault’s interests or challenges some aspect of his argument. but also did not consider modern or contemporary examples of women’s self-care. I will be interested in examples which recognize the self in relations to others. for instance self-fashioning practices which occur within group political movements. As is already apparent. including ethical and feminist directions which Foucault neglects. as additional instances of self-fashioning which differ from those of Foucault in at least two ways: fi rst. while Foucault’s examples tend to theorize the cultivation of autonomy and independence from others as an aesthetic and ethical ideal. In this context I will consider Foucault’s own examples of non-confessional autobiographical practices: his studies of ancient Greek and Roman hupomnêmata and the nineteenth-century memoirs of Pierre Rivière and Herculine Barbin. 41 . each of these chapters is indebted to the work of Foucault on confession and to his philosophy generally. or technologies of the self which undo the work of discipline and which cultivate autonomy and enable self-transformation. or cultivate relational autonomy.

that the truth in question was not. confession as such. These later elements. the discursive acts which Foucault analyzes in antiquity do not share all of the characteristics of confession detailed above: telling the truth of the self.1 Regarding such discursive acts in antiquity. Foucault observes that examinations of conscience were exceedingly rare. as shall be seen. existing only as a rather uncommon philosophic practice: “in all the ancient philosophical practices. ancient techniques of self-examination pursued the goals of self-transformation and self-mastery rather than self-discovery and interpretation. it should be stressed fi rst and foremost that such discourses were nearly absent in antiquity. and modifying the self in the process.1 Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation ANTIQUITY In lectures and articles he wrote in the 1980s. Foucault traces forms of confessional discourse through antiquity and into the fi rst centuries of Christianity. since Greek philosophy was less about the project of knowing the subject than about knowing how the subject could change himself in order to live a better life. . The element of “modifying” the self through truth-telling is consequently more self-conscious in antiquity than in modernity. a hidden and secret truth unique to the being of the speaking subject. at which point the subject will think she is “discovering” herself. Moreover. fi rst. blind to the manners in which her self-“discovery” is in fact a positive act of production. So far as techniques of truthful examinations of conscience did exist in antiquity. One examined one’s actions. the form such self-examinations took was different from the forms they would take in modernity. only appear in monastic confessions of the Middle Ages.”2 In comparison to the explosion and omnipresence of confessional discourses today. as in modernity. are present in antiquity. the obligation to tell the truth about oneself occupies a rather limited place. Moreover. but was a rationally cognized philosophical truth about how all persons wanting to live the good life ought to behave. the crucial argument that Foucault makes about such practices is. In particular. but these statements of truth do not come accompanied by protestations of difficulty and repression and shame.

and thus as a technique of the self. the model of the ethical life which he philosophically endorses. but with the truth of the ethical ideal at which those declarations aim and to which one compares them. and could thus become other than what it was. Examinations of one’s acts were thus part of a self-consciously undertaken process of becoming a certain kind of subject in conformity with the philosophical truth of an ethical teaching which one rationally accepted. and any tutelage prior to self-mastery was transitory and aimed at autonomy. in a practice that can be compared to keeping a diary for another to read. Nevertheless this form of correspondence involves offering one’s life up to the surveillance of another. the emphasis on truth does not lie with the truth of one’s declarations. to a temporary master. this is not the panopticism of modernity which Foucault would describe in Discipline and Punish. in contrast to today. 3 Here we can see the conjunction of discipline and techniques of the self in antiquity. Indeed. Nonetheless. autonomous. since the ancient subject is choosing to offer his day’s activities up to the judgment and surveillance of another. Foucault is analyzing these daily correspondences as ways in which the ancients would work towards shaping their actions in conformity with a rationally chosen model of the ethical life. there was no truth of the self. In “Self Writing. and thus to conform to. Thus. The ancient subject submits to and internalizes surveillance not because he is dominated. and the transformation of surveillance into self-surveillance will only work with the subject’s truthful cooperation from the outset. Correspondence was a self-conscious attempt to enforce a habit of self-surveillance through a pact of surveillance between two subjects. Importantly.14 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault but less to tell the truth of these actions than to see and to manage how well they conformed to the philosophical truth of the good life. and the aim was to examine how well one’s behavior had adhered to these true ethical guidelines in order to better attain them over time. Among ancient philosophers. knowing that one’s activities will be judged by another. rather than monitoring himself because he fi nds himself already-monitored. and this absence of truth was related to the fact that the self was free. . the point was that the ancient subject would monitor himself in order to have nothing shameful to report to or to have seen by the other. if one was still in the process of becoming autonomous. one fi nds certain philosophical practices of recording and recounting one’s acts and thoughts either to oneself or. nor with the truth of one’s self. These ideas about the good life were considered true. Such inventories of acts were judged in terms of how well they conformed to certain ideas regarding how the subject ought to act.” Foucault gives the example of ancients who would exchange daily letters in which they would record all of their actions of that day. one was ideally one’s own master. but because he has rationally decided that he wishes to be subjected to and to internalize. while such self-examinations and confessions were not common. Moreover.

but is part of the process of becoming autonomous and thus of telling the truth to oneself. and less calm.” but related to the more properly Greek concerns of riches.” Foucault notes that confession to another— for instance the correspondence analyzed in “Self Writing”—was “a practice not very developed in philosophical life” in antiquity.4 If Seneca. He describes taking a nightly “inventory” of his day’s activities. Unlike in Christian and modern forms of confession. but is a philosophical truth which is rationally known and which is true of the good life. in this act of truth-telling. . Once more. can examine his own deeds at the end of the day. a sort of medical consultation concerned with the state of his soul. He asks: What could be more beautiful than to conduct an inquest of one’s day? What sleep better than that which follows this review of one’s actions? How calm it is. accompanied by predictable claims about the difficulty of the discursive act involved. and has submitted itself to its own examination. the life of the philosopher. and glory: the domains of activity of the free man. the truth involved is not a correspondence with reality. not faults of the subject. undertakes a similar examination of self without the mediation of another. modern confessants certainly take pleasure in their confessions. . as master of himself. Seneca himself. in the process abolishing the need for this hierarchy. but with aesthetic pleasure and serenity. I exercise this authority over myself. to its own censure. . it makes the trial of its own conduct. In an example of confession involving another. and also existed in Seneca’s school of thought. erotic. I reason with myself and take the measure of my acts and of my words. Secretly. and each day I will myself as witness before myself. and the hierarchical relation involved in Serenus’s truth-telling to Seneca is not intrinsic to the discourse. as shall be seen in later chapters. Seneca undertakes his nightly self-examination not with anxiety or guilt. but it did exist in the Epicurean schools and in medical practice.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 15 In “Subjectivity and Truth. Foucault describes the case of Serenus’s confession to Seneca regarding his spiritual malaise. when the soul has received its portion of praise and blame. but as an administrator. confesses to Seneca in the process of attaining a similar self-mastery. deep and free. the courage . political life. 5 Though. Serenus. deeming any errors in judgment to be. but mistakes. as in modern confession. wrong applications of his ideas rather than tell-tale indicators of character flaws. Foucault notes that what is confessed to is not concerned with “shameful desires” and “things of that sort. like the ancient correspondents. The function of this form of confession is not self-discovery and self-interpretation but becoming-autonomous. the pleasure is more perverse. When my light is lowered and my wife at last is silent. often followed by displeasure. and is not psychologically buried and to be discovered through analysis of the individual. further along in the process of self-mastery than Serenus. not as a judge of them.

While in the case of correspondence found in “Self Writing. legal confessions in antiquity admitted to acts rather than to the psychological being (motives. this truth is immediately and fully accessible to him. What Foucault is provisionally calling “confession” or selfexamination in Greek and Roman antiquity was thus not a wide-spread aspect of subject-formation intrinsic to identity. whether it be God or the reading public. They involved discipline but in the form of rationally chosen and cultivated self-discipline. or exhibitionist pleasure. though not from free men such as Seneca. and certain philosophers more specifically. confession in law was not. rather than a means of discovering a certain essential being of the subject. Confession and self-examination in ancient Greece and Rome were relatively simple techniques based on an un-complex conception of the self. ?”) and serene (“How calm it is”). however culturally-circumscribed the notion of the good life (and who had access to it) entailed may have been. narcissistic. Also in contrast to modern confession. and so forth. but in either case. a reflection of a more everyday demand that subjects confess. in contrast. this examination of conduct is not accompanied by guilt or shame. but simply truths about how well he has conformed to a certain and true idea of ethical behavior in action. Legal confessions could be tortured from slaves in ancient Greece. but a calm pleasure in knowing that by examining the mistake he is in the process of improving and mastering himself such that he will remember to act according to the code of behavior which he ascribes to in the future. as in modernity. techniques of truth-telling and practices of the self in Christianity would be increasingly complex as well as increasingly close to modern . denial of masochistic. and does not require the intervention of another to be interpreted. or desires. it is not hidden or indecipherable or unconscious. While Seneca reproaches himself for how he spoke to an individual during the day. . . Foucault will argue. Seneca’s pleasure. the deeds Seneca reflects on do not reveal to Seneca truths about his character or about his personal predilections. would become crucial in the formation of the modern subject across classes and genders. In contrast. intentions) of the confessing subject. Moreover. is aesthetic (“What could be more beautiful . and each day I will myself as witness before myself”) without submitting itself to or fantasizing the shameful exposure to and condemnation by another. Finally. in contradistinction from modern confession. and is a practice in selfmastery (“I exercise this authority over myself. which is to be noted in contrast to modern forms of confession which.” surveillance is needed to produce the requisite self-surveillance in a subject. To sum up. Seneca has reached a point of self-mastery at which he monitors himself without need of another. It is clear that this form of confession as means of becoming autonomous would have been a technique of the self used only by a small and élite group of individuals in Ancient Greece and Rome: a select group of free men. the examination of conscience in Seneca is part of the process of becoming of the self. drives.16 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault required.

to accept the decisions of religious authorities as true. of course.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 17 truth-telling technologies and notions of subjectivity. and have thus taken one step towards the modern confessional interest in truth as purely internal or introspectively-discovered. According to Augustine. in this lecture Foucault will discuss the practices of exomologesis and exagoreusis. In particular.” The method which comes to mind is of course the sacrament of penance. however. qui facit veritatem venit ad lucem: by making truth inside oneself one could get access to the light. Publishing Oneself The fi rst technique of “making truth inside oneself” which Foucault analyzes is exomologesis. and by bearing witness to these sins and temptations in the presence of others. a Christian could better access the truth of God. one which he will not discuss at all in “Christianity and Confession. this is a late invention of Christianity. and particularly in Catholicism. and to manifest one’s subscription to this faith. At the same time. in Christianity. are not the manners in which Christians confessed the truth of their faith. and this second form of truthfulness was related to one’s knowing and manifesting the truth of the religion.7 By knowing one’s sins and temptations. tell the truth. EARLY CHRISTIAN PENANCE AND MONASTIC CONFESSION Making Truths In “Christianity and Confession. however. a term so peculiar that the Latin fathers normally . one is obliged to subscribe to a certain set of doctrines as true. to believe that certain texts are sources of truth. Foucault is far more concerned with the techniques which Christianity developed for “making truth inside oneself. What interests Foucault. and that this entails that Christians.6 A confessional faith thus requires its followers to develop certain relations between themselves and the truth. an anxiety-ridden obedience to a doctrine within a hierarchy ever less clearly and less calmly chosen. A confessional faith is not a private spirituality. rather. Christianity developed an idea according to which one also needed to know and to manifest the truth of oneself.” Foucault notes that Christianity is a confession.D. as with persons of other confessions.” attending instead to forms of manifesting one’s truth between the second and fifth centuries A. Rather. the discipline involved would augment and aim towards obedience rather than autonomy. we move to a notion of two truths. Beyond these relations to the truth of the faith. one external (God) and one internal (the self). From a notion of truth as external in antiquity. or publishing oneself and permanent verbalization. which I argue below is crucial to his neglect of Augustine. As Foucault notes.

and was initially only undertaken by Christians who had sinned gravely. he could never contract a marriage and. but which was translated by Tertullian as publicatio sui. having once been a penitent. exomologesis took place. and was remarkable for its severity. wholly devoted to pious exercises and charitable works. During his time amongst the penitents.9 Canonical penance was the dominant form which this restoration took between the second and seventh centuries.18 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault kept it in the Greek. “There is only one penance. or publishing oneself. this occurred over a period of several days preceding Easter during which Fabiola “was to be found among the ranks of the penitents. calls this form of penance “canonical penance. as Ambrose wrote.” while Mortimer refers to it as “the public penitential system. a third class of Christians distinct from catechumens and faithful. As this was a serious sin. This form of penance was an entirely public affair. Tentler.”15 Exomologesis. Penance at this time was not considered an act.”13 Moreover. but a status: Tentler speaks of “entrance into an order of penitents. “Christianity was confi ned to zealous and selective communities. As Saint Jerome explains. keep fasts. he could enter this order of penitents through a public ritual which involved the laying on of hands. usually at Lent. or as being a sinner. however. Restricted from sexual. commercial and military activities for the remainder of his life. just as there is only one baptism.” since he would have no other chance at redemption should he sin gravely again. If an individual sinned gravely again. yet not of it. a method was required for “restoring sinners” who strayed.12 Significantly. in the fi rst two hundred years of Christianity.”8 As Tentler writes. these restrictions were a manner in which the Church protected the penitent from “the ordinary sources of temptation. and could also include the shaving of his head and the donning of a hair shirt and ashes.” . necessary for readmission into the faithful. the contrite sinner would perform almsgiving. and endure public humiliation.” and there was thus little need for ritualized penance. At Lent.”10 If a Christian had committed a serious sin.11 Such a period of penance. usually lasted for the forty days of Lent. the penitent “became to all intents and purposes a professed religious: in the world. he was not to become too involved in worldly affairs. in his history of confession. To take an example of Foucault’s. is the part of the ritual which interests Foucault. she took on the status of penitent. This was a publishing of the truth of oneself as having penitential status. even if he was already married. As the community grew. Fabiola was an aristocratic Roman woman who married a second husband while her fi rst husband was still alive. occurring at the end of the period of penitence. he had to live abstinently for the rest of his life.14 According to Mortimer. a Christian remained marked by his previous penitential status by a series of permanent restrictions: he could never become part of the clergy or serve in the military. but in exceptional cases could last for several years. he was excluded from the faithful once and for all. it could be undertaken only once in a person’s lifetime.

and there is indeed a continuity in these penitential performances over several centuries. and a new. in so far as the subject submits to the discipline of the Church. the priests. she is abnegating the self of which she is simultaneously manifesting the truth. like other penitents. her face pale. So Fabiola is showing that her face and her body and her hair are in truth not beautiful and seductive. and the people wept with her. and . Fabiola is renouncing that body and her prior self and enacting its death. creating herself. her head covered in ashes. Without speaking or making a verbal confession. the penitent is making manifest the truth of his or her self as a sinner. Fabiola publishes the truth that in her sinfulness she had chosen spiritual death over eternal life. In Foucault’s terms. and shows the wretchedness of this choice. she shows that she chose the life of the flesh over God. therefore. one model frequently given for exomologesis was medical: to heal a wound one must fi rst show it to a physician or expose one’s woundedness. At the same time. rather than concealing her true nature by cleaning and adorning her body and living as affluently and peacefully as she might have. to rid oneself of the corruptions of the flesh and to renounce worldly life one must fi rst show the flesh to another or to the public. In the case of Natalius from the third century. she shows that she chose filth and earth over purity and heaven. such that by the time of the exomologesis it is wounded and emaciated and dirty. even while renouncing and disciplining herself and accepting the discipline of the Church. She is thus choosing herself.”17 In each case. acknowledging the truth of the self in order to destroy it. Her hair disheveled. but are in fact filthy and sinful. She revealed to all her wound.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 19 The bishop. Tertullian provides similar descriptions from the end of the second century. in tears. the penitent is found “rolling himself under the feet not only of the clergy but also of the laity” and “showing the weals of the stripes he has received. Accordingly. Fabiola. A few points are crucial to emphasize. Similarly. her hands dirty. in this evocation of bodily martyrdom. but does so in order to create or give birth to a new form of subjectivity which she prefers and is choosing. purified self is in the process of being born. In exomologesis. As such. she chastened her naked breast and the face with which she had seduced her second husband. By performing a sort of martyrdom of her flesh. is making manifest the truth of her self which might otherwise have remained hidden. First. and Rome. contemplated the scars on her emaciated body. and this is thus once more an example of the overlapping of discipline and techniques of self-care. By covering herself in dust and ashes. there is not necessarily a verbalization of sins in these early Christian performances of penance. the self whose truth is made manifest is thus simultaneously destroyed. By exposing her defiled flesh to Rome.16 While this is an example from the beginning of the fi fth century. exomologesis could be analyzed as a fusion of discipline and self-fashioning. as she had deceived her second husband that they were.

in later Christian penance and in modern confession. qui facit veritatem venit ad lucem: by making the truth of oneself (which truth was always the same: that one was sinful) through theatrical performances of that self’s destruction. again. exomologesis did not occur discursively but through public acts. then it is in the evening. nor simply to an authority. In this sense. unlike pre-Christian technologies of the self and modern confession. as noted. While exomologesis was a radical departure from the ancient self-examination and confessional practices of philosophers such as Seneca.20 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault hence no confession as we know it. At the same time. Foucault cites John Chrysostom. rather than exploring the individuality of her sinful nature in symbolic gestures or words. To show the similarity of certain forms of monastic self-examination to that of Seneca. in Foucault’s words. and wounded. Finally. as could Seneca’s self-examinations. not to “discover” it. cause of all worldly temptations. when we have gone to bed and no one . of choosing to become other than what one was. who writes: It is in the morning that we must take account of our expenses. as in later Christian penance and modern confession. the details of their trespasses and temptations. One tried to get rid of or change one’s former self. exagoreusis could be seen as a Christianized version of the ancient techniques of the self. Although Jerome does highlight the abnegation of Fabiola’s flesh as appropriate to her particular sins. most of these performances of exomologesis occurred in public: confessions of the flesh required witnesses and could not be made to oneself. at the end of their period of penance. The penitent is manifesting the truth of her self as generically sinful. all of whom would have been similarly dirty. which is unsurprising since it was in the monasteries that philosophical life continued and that the ancient philosophers continued to be read during the Middle Ages. therefore. emaciated. nor individuate themselves as sinners of a certain sort as. or at least this is not crucial to the process of publishing oneself. she is found amongst other penitents. PERMANENT VERBALIZATION The second form of early Christian truth-telling techniques of the self which Foucault explores in “Christianity and Confession” is a practice which the early Greek fathers called exagoreusis. penitents such as Fabiola did not confess to Rome or to the public their particular sins. and which developed within the context of monastic life. one renounced the sinful and embodied self and became closer to the light of God. Second. publishing oneself was a technology of the self. a “permanent verbalization” of one’s thoughts in the presence of another (one’s spiritual director). and which was. the self which is “confessed” to is simultaneously renounced. Third. to be found weeping and chastening their flesh. In this sense. after our meal.

the celibate Chrysostom writes more vaguely of “no one troubl[ing]” and “disquiet[ing]” the individual after a certain hour. As such. The fi rst transformation. “The obligation of the monk is continuously to turn his thoughts to that single point which is God. his soul. it aimed instead at the continuous contemplation of God. it was the monk’s thoughts which had to be controlled more than his actions. if the monastic life did not aim at the virtue of self-mastery. and as such would always confess to a spiritual director and would never be autonomous.19 Anything a monk did without the permission of his spiritual director was considered a “theft. Since the monastic life was one of contemplation.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 21 troubles us and disquiets us. for . is that the self-examination concerned the monk’s thoughts rather than his actions. and even during the celebration of mass. while the ancient philosophical disciple studied with his master in the process of becoming autonomous. with monastic confession we see an increase in discipline over self-governance. and would then examine himself without need of an intermediary.”21 It is thus appropriate that while Seneca would examine his deeds of the day. as noted.18 While Seneca must patiently wait for his wife to “at last” be silent. that we must ask ourselves to account for our conduct to ourselves.”20 While Chrysostom might rehearse his day in bed. the monk would examine his thoughts. Institutiones and Collationes. Although Chyrsostom still speaks of “expenses” and “conduct. The transformation of self-examination in light of these ideals of obedience and contemplation are apparent in two works by John Cassian which Foucault analyzes. unable to act upon her desires.” the main object of examination within monastic life would quickly become mental. Despite their similarity. other monks would soon be required to make their confession to another to whom they owed perpetual obedience. Foucault notes that two elements are altered in monastic forms of selfexamination. or even at an ethical life of acts. 22 She notes that men are wrong who judge her chaste because of the unwilling purity of her flesh. and his obligation is also to make sure that his heart. and the eye of his soul are pure enough to see God and to receive light from him. which describe monastic techniques of self-examination amongst Palestinian and Egyptian monks at the beginning of the fi fth century A. even during periods meant to be devoted to meditation and prayer. “has to keep the spirit of obedience as a permanent sacrifice of his own will” for his entire life. in Foucault’s words. We might think of Heloïse’s anguished writings to Abelard in which she tells him that although she is enclosed in a convent. she nevertheless dwells on erotic reminiscences of him. so that they could be continually directed towards God and kept perpetually pure enough to receive His light. and reflect two virtues of monastic life which departed from the ideals of Stoicism: obedience and contemplation. the monk. Regarding obedience. Secondly. As Foucault writes.D.

and thus one needed to be permanently vigilant in deciphering illusion and deception in the thoughts coming from Satan. another person is required to help the monastic subject reveal the hidden truth of his thoughts. not on their philosophical logic. given that certain ideas in one’s mind could originate from the Devil. whereas if their source is God. mental images and fantasies which interfered with the religious contemplation of the ordained. deceptive. for Cassian it is clear that the examination of thoughts needed to be made to one’s spiritual director. Cassian uses three metaphors for this sorting or censoring process: one is of the miller who sorts through grains to remove those which are bad. but with whether they are true or false in the sense that if they are the temptations of a demon. and separating these from the pure thoughts originating in and pleasing to God. The third metaphor. they are true. that of Cassian’s censor is. as Foucault points out. Thoughts are not always immediately accessible to the subject in early Christian thought because they could be the work of Satan within one. but needed to be put into words. this examination could not merely be manifested performatively. it is also used by Freud to describe the censorship of thoughts. whereas the monk examining his thoughts needs to know if particular thoughts originated from God or from the Devil. then they are illusory. thought one could lie in bed and contemplate one’s day silently and alone. is that of the moneychanger who tests each coin for its authenticity. directors of the monastic life had to control less the deeds than the thoughts. and so some experience and expertise in examining or interpreting them is required. The origin of thoughts. and that. desires. the greater wisdom and experience at deciphering thoughts that one’s spiritual director offered was crucial in . The second metaphor is of the military officer examining the soldiers as they march by and again sorting them according to their capacities. Regarding the first point. which is the most interesting because. Also importantly.”23 As is apparent. but on their origin. and false. a hermeneutics is developed to discover and to decipher the reality hidden in the thoughts of the subject. the truth involved in examining these thoughts is different from that of Seneca and Serenus: the monk is not concerned with how well his thoughts correspond with the truth of a philosophic doctrine. who would disguise evil and false thoughts as tempting and true. unlike in the case of exomologesis. on the contrary. only allowing the good grains to enter into the millstone. While Seneca. once more sorting out flawed and impure coins from the pure ones. While the task of Freud’s censor is to only let adequately disguised thoughts pass into consciousness. Importantly. and even Chyrsostom. to enter the mind as objects of contemplation. like that of coins. The monk examining his thoughts must sort out the good from the bad based. originating in God. to expel the illusory thoughts and only allow true thoughts. In both cases. The moneychanger needs to be able to tell which workshop the coins came from. may be deceptive.22 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault “virtue belongs not to the body but to the soul.

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 23 the permanent effort of keeping one’s thoughts on the path to God. Instilled with fear of being possessed by Satan and thus suffering for eternity in the fi res of Hell, we might say that monks submitted to both surveillance and self-surveillance with less freedom than Stoic philosophers decided to consent to an idea of the good life, and so the balance between self-governance and discipline had radically shifted. Surveillance is no longer chosen as a means to help the subject develop a sense of self-surveillance and selfmastery, but as a permanent discipline with no end of autonomy in sight; and yet, the monks were fashioning themselves—self-consciously fashioning themselves after Christ, for instance, as Greenblatt notes24 —through the discourses they chose, but no longer with the sense that they could do otherwise without being led by the Devil and ending up in Hell. Regarding the second point, the necessity that thoughts be expressed verbally rather than performatively is shown through an example in Cassian which Foucault analyzes. According to the story, a young monk named Serapion found that he was unable to keep a fast, and so he stole a loaf of bread each day and enjoyed a secret meal. One day, his spiritual director gave a sermon to all the monks about the importance of truthfulness. Convinced, Serapion revealed to all present the loaf of bread he had hidden under his robes, and then confessed that he had been stealing and eating a loaf each day. At this point, and not before, “a light seems to tear itself away from his body and cross the room, spreading a disgusting smell of sulphur.”25 Satan and his temptations were not dislodged from Serapion at the moment that the monk felt contrition, nor at the moment that he acknowledged within his heart that he had done wrong, nor even at the moment that he displayed the stolen loaf of bread to his fellow monks and thus theatrically exposed his guilt. Only when Serapion confessed his wrong-doing in words was the Devil forced from his body, for, according to Cassian, the darkness of Satan is incompatible with the light which only verbalization sheds; as Cassian writes: “A bad thought brought into the light of day immediately loses its veneer. The terrible serpent that this confession has forced out of its subterranean lair, to throw it out into the light and make its shame a public spectacle, is quick to retreat.”26 This verbalization as exorcism is only effective if made in the presence of another. As Foucault notes, “The presence of somebody, even if he does not speak, even if it is a silent presence, this presence is required for this kind of confession, because the abbé, or the brother, or the spiritual father, who listens to this confession is the image of God.”27 It is the image of God which exposes thoughts for what they are. Verbalization in the presence of another is also necessary because it functions to help sort thoughts after the manner of the miller, the military officer, or the money changer. Only when speaking a thought in the presence of another does one experience the difficulty of admitting to shameful thoughts and thus realize the extent of their shamefulness and untruth. The difficulty of speaking betrays the impurity and falseness of that of which

24 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault one speaks. So long as Serapion thought about his nightly meal, he could always justify it and be convinced by the temptations of his flesh and of the Devil, and to feel that it was not wrong, that it was even desirable. But the shame caused by speaking of the stolen bread in front of his fellow monks and in the presence of his spiritual director shed light on the origin of the Serapion’s thoughts and desires in a manner which could no longer be denied, and this realization was synonymous with the exorcism of Satan, and with the cessation of the sinful behavior. The resistance that the subject experiences in speaking is a means of ascertaining the quality of the thought, its truth or falsity, and thus, in a point which will occur again and again from this point in history onwards, we see that expressions of psychological resistance will always accompany confession, or at least anything worth confessing (but everything must be confessed in order to ascertain what is worth confessing!). Interestingly, however, while for the monks the difficulty experienced in admitting a thought revealed that it was a false thought, originating in the devil, for modern confessants, as shall be seen, this same resistance will be proof of the truth of what is being expressed. Just as Cassian’s censor only allows true thoughts into the mind, while Freud’s censor only allows in false or disguised thoughts, so for moderns it is the truth which is difficult to express, which our censors reject and which our minds resist uttering and even acknowledging, and which must be torn from the darkest recesses of the soul. In contrast, as seen, for Cassian thoughts exorcised with difficulty were the false and demonic ones, stinking of sulphur. Finally, it is important to note that in the monastic context, what is also being resisted in the temptation to remain silent, and which is overcome through the verbalization of confession, is the subject’s attachment to Satan, and this attachment to Satan is also an attachment to oneself. In renouncing his stolen bread, Serapion renounces the Devil, but he also renounces his attachment to his body and to his self and its pleasures in favor of truth and God. As in “publishing oneself” or exomologesis, in exagoreusis one manifests the truth of oneself in an act, this time a verbal act, which is simultaneously a renunciation of that self. In both cases, early Christian techniques of manifesting the truth of the self aimed to be forms of self-sacrifice, self-destructions which brought one closer to God.

THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRISTIANITY Foucault calls the theatrical “publishing oneself” the “ontological temptation of Christianity,” whereas “constant verbalization” is the “epistemological temptation of Christianity.”28 “Publishing oneself” was a manifestation of one’s ontological being as sinful, while “permanent verbalization” is a tendency towards a continual discursive analysis of a subject’s thoughts in the pursuit of self-knowledge. While both, unlike ancient techniques of the

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 25 self, require the presence of another and are self-sacrifices, Foucault notes that it is the second form of truth-telling which, after centuries of fluctuation, fi nally dominated, and it is the second technology of the self which dominates subjectivity-formation today. By studying the monastic practices of early Christianity, Foucault therefore writes that we “discover the beginnings of great things,” “the apparition of a new kind of self, or at least of a new kind of relationship to our selves,” one which is far more complicated than is to be discovered in the technologies of the self of ancient Greece. 29 One problem with the Christian perspective on human subjectivity which has been widely recognized over the past two hundred years is its negativity, its abnegation of the flesh and of the subject as perpetually sinful, or the fact that, as Foucault has highlighted, it is a sacrifice of the self. Intriguingly but all too briefly, Foucault suggests by way of conclusion that in recent, more secularized centuries, political thought, psychiatry, judicial institutions, and medicine have all tried to fi nd positive grounds for these technologies of the self, “to constitute the ground of subjectivity as the root of a positive self, what we could call the permanent anthropologism of Western thought.”30 This is perhaps a reference to the sorts of discourses Foucault studied in The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge, the discovery, which was also a production, of “man” as a positive notion in the human sciences of the late seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Or we might think of Foucault’s study of the medical gaze in The Birth of the Clinic, and of the sciences of sex in The History of Sexuality, or even the judicial, legal, medical and psychiatric documents surrounding the cases of Pierre Rivière and Herculine Barbin. In each of these cases, the discourses Foucault studies were similar to those of monastic confession in that they were so many quests for the truth of human subjects through the obligating of those subjects to provide a “permanent verbalization” of their thoughts in the presence of an other, which other, like the spiritual director, is both authority and interpreter of the subject’s thoughts. Unlike in the monastic setting, however, these discourses of the human sciences and of psychiatry, medicine and law do not aim to simultaneously destroy the subject which they discover, even if they are unaware of the fact that, as with Schrödinger’s cat and as shall be discussed below, these examinations and interpretations are active in their interference with and fi xation of the subjectivity which they aimed to “discover.”31 In the past few hundred years, Western culture, Foucault argues, has tried to salvage the hermeneutics of the self developed in Christianity, while dispensing with the self-sacrifice and abnegation of the self which such technologies had previously entailed. Similarly, modern forms of confession such as autobiographical writing tend to take up the Christian hermeneutics of the self, but more often to affi rm than to negate that self. 32 Contemporary autobiographical confessions most often aim to discover and reveal the self without wishing to renounce it. Such practices take up Christian practices of confession but, crucially, subtract the guilt and desire


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

for self-transformation. Foucault concludes “Christianity and Confession” with the suggestion that instead of trying to maintain a positive version of the Christian technologies of the self, as modern autobiographical practices have done, perhaps we need to dispense with those technologies altogether, and to fi nd new ones. In his own words: The moment, maybe, is coming for us to ask: do we really need this hermeneutics of the self (which we have inherited from the fi rst centuries of Christianity? Do we need a positive man who serves as the foundation of this hermeneutics of the self?) Maybe the problem of the self is not to discover what it is in its positivity; maybe the problem is not to discover a positive self or the positive foundation for the self. Maybe our problem now is to discover that the self is nothing else than the historical correlation of the technology built in our history. Maybe the problem is to change those technologies (or maybe to get rid of those technologies, and then, to get rid of the sacrifice which is linked to those technologies). And in this case, one of the main political problems nowadays would be, in the strict sense of the word, the politics of our selves. 33


Augustine’s Absence in Foucault
Augustine’s Confessions are clearly neither a case of exomologesis nor of exagoreusis: the saint is neither undergoing public ascetic exercises nor is he confessing obediently in a monastic context to a religious superior. The Confessions do not fit into Foucault’s dichotomized presentation of early Christian confession in “Christianity and Confession,” and yet Augustine wrote his Confessions during the period which Foucault analyzes in this lecture. It is in fact surprising that Augustine is neither discussed here nor (or scarcely ever) in other writings by Foucault dealing with the early Christian period. This seems particularly strange since Foucault is concerned with the history of confessional discourses, and Augustine, considered the father of confessional writing, is certainly the figure who looms largest for this and perhaps for any period. The few times that Augustine is mentioned in the late writings of Foucault it is to make the point that Augustine, like other Christian thinkers, was preoccupied not with the sexual act of penetration, as the ancient Greeks had been, but with the more passive sexual phenomenon of erection. 34 This seems neither here nor there as far as confession is concerned, and indeed the passage on erection to which Foucault directs our attention is found not in the Confessions but in the City of God. Although we may hypothesize whether Augustine’s Confessions were examined in Foucault’s destroyed manuscript dealing with the Christian

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 27 period, Confessions of the Flesh, the near-absence of Augustine in the extant works may be partially explained by Foucault’s concern to do original archival research for each of his studies, rather than relying on wellknown philosophical and historical texts and the secondary literature on them. Foucault decidedly privileges the obscure over the canonical, and Rousseau’s Confessions are also notably absent from the discussion of modern confession in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality, with preference given to the less-known English text, My Secret Life, for which Foucault would also publish a preface. As was seen above, however, Foucault distinguishes between two forms of early Christian truth-telling practices, those concerned with telling the truth of the Christian faith, and those concerned with telling the truth of the self, with Foucault’s interest lying in the latter form of truth-telling. As I will argue below, and despite a dominant interpretation, Augustine’s Confessions are more concerned with confessing the truth of the Christian faith than with telling the truth of the author, and this is perhaps another reason for Foucault’s inattention to the work. Despite this otherwise notable neglect, Foucault does mention an incident from Augustine’s Confessions in an interview. Having been asked: “What is the ethical difference between the flesh and sexuality?,” he responded, For the Greeks, when a philosopher was in love with a boy, but didn’t touch him, one appreciated his attitude. The problem was the following: did he touch the boy or not? This was the ethical substance: the act tied to the pleasure and desire. For Saint Augustine, it is very clear that when he remembers his relationship with a young friend when he was eighteen years old, what bothers him, what torments him, is to know exactly the type of desire which he had for him. So you see that the ethical substance is not the same. 35 From this we can see that Foucault viewed Augustine’s reflections on his sexual past as concerned with his interiority, with fantasies and desires and not only with acts. So far as acts are concerned, the questions are: Why? Through what inner as well as external compulsion? With how much guilt? With how much shame? Foucault argues that it did not occur to the ancient Greeks to analyze their thoughts or feelings, and they were instead concerned exclusively with administering acts. For the Greeks, what or whom one desired was not of interest, what mattered was how one mastered one’s desires in order to act on them in a certain way or to refrain from doing so altogether. A similar point was seen with respect to the move from Stoic self-examination and confession, which was primarily preoccupied with acts, to early Christian monastic confession, which was a “permanent verbalization” of thoughts and desires. If this is the extent of Foucault’s extant analysis of Augustine’s Confessions, we might push a Foucaultian examination of confession in Augustine


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

on our own, since he is so often assumed to be the literary prototype of modern and contemporary confessions.

INTERIORITY The contrast which Foucault draws between Augustine and the ancient Greeks is supported by Phillip Cary’s thesis in Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self. According to Cary, the concept of interiority is new to Augustine, who, Cary argues, in fact invented the idea of a private interior self as a solution to his unique theological problems. Cary observes that the concept and experience of a “private interior realm [ . . . ] is not an inevitable part of human self-description.”36 Much as Foucault shows that various experiences which we deem instinctual, natural, universal and inevitable are in fact contingent accidents of history, Cary argues that it was only the particular theological questions which Augustine posed, and the particular solutions which he reached in order to solve them, which resulted in his invention of the notion and experience of an inner self—a notion and experience which then had a long and varied career, resulting fi nally in modern, secularized intuitions about the self which are quite different from those entailed by Augustine’s thought. Cary charts the development of a notion of an interior self in Augustine’s writings. The early Augustine followed Plotinus in believing that the soul was divine and immutable. For this reason, Augustine thought we could turn the eyes of the soul in upon itself in order to see God. Both Plotinus and the early Augustine therefore conceive of an inner self, and are motivated to introspect upon it, and yet this is quite different from modern and contemporary forms of introspection, for this inner self was not yet private or individualized, but was the undifferentiated divine. Because immutable, this soul would not be tailored to particular human beings, but would be the same for all human beings, and identical with God. By looking in on one’s own soul one would thus not only see Christ but all other souls as well, and the purpose of introspection would not be to explore one’s individuality but to fi nd theological truth. Augustine eventually realized that this Plotinian theory confl icted with official Christian doctrine according to which the soul, as created rather than Creator, could not be divine and immutable. In obedience to the teachings of the Church, Augustine was obliged to concede that the soul was mutable in time, if not in space, and that it was not divine. Because mutable, or corruptible, subject to sin, each individual soul would differ, and we cannot therefore know other souls by looking into our own, and nor can we fi nd God simply by looking within. Augustine would continue to maintain that a turning inwards of the eyes of the soul was necessary to see God, but, as Cary puts it, the eyes must turn in and then up. Indeed, as J. Lenore Wright indicates, this in-and-then-up

Augustine thinks it is easy enough to leave the inner space of the self. as Taylor acknowledges. what is at issue is that for Augustine the need to look in at the soul aims not so much at seeing the self. Augustine then looks up in the last four. while the last four books are more abstract philosophical and theological musings. [which] is in a sense radically exterior. God is within for Augustine. ]”39 Our souls are thus differentiated. one looks in to know God. as will be the case for modern introspective and confessing subjects. in Augustine. as is suggested by authors such as Stephen Menn and Charles Taylor. as Augustine would lament in his Confessions. for Augustine. for the crucial thing about it is that it has no roof: it is open to the light of the Sun above. For unlike Locke.”38 However. “constituted in a relationship to a God more intimately related to the self than itself. but is rather a means to another end. or because we should be interested in our private inner selves. or in order to look out again. as it would be for Locke many centuries later. it is the only place to go to see the Sun shining clearly. rather than about or at the things of this world. we only have differentiated souls.”43 As Hanby elaborates.” according to which the modern soul. While for the modern confessional subject truth is to be found within. “Outside. According to Cary. . but as “the inner courtyard of a great palace. 37 Having looked in for nine books. “the truth is not in me. as seen. All you have to do is sin [ . inwardness. is. which is the macrocosm to the microcosmic . Rather. it is overcast at best. Michael Hanby will problematize what he calls the “continuity theory. can be traced back to Augustine. but as the tragic consequence of original sin. to look up. . most importantly.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 29 movement characterizes the Confessions themselves: the fi rst nine books retrospect upon Augustine’s spiritual life. In fact. for the later Augustine—as perhaps for no earlier philosopher—and yet. This soul is not to be imagined as a dark room with no windows or way out.41 Again. Interiority. is in the heavenly city. because we are fallen. and. one does not look inside one’s soul in order to explore one’s interiority for its own sake. For Augustine. or private. truth.”42 For Augustine. even if it is from within our individual souls that we can look up to God. Hanby writes. private worlds. which is to look up and see God. inner worlds. which is where the self will fi nally be realized. for Augustine. This “complicate[s] the meaning of Augustinian interiority. It is the possibility for corruption which makes our souls our own. this individualism is not conceived by Augustine as a source of human dignity. 40 In Augustine and Modernity. and one could wander long in the darkness. and this individualization of souls is experienced by the saint as a tragic form of isolation.”44 That the soul will only be realized in the heavenly city. making even newborn babies unknown to the women who nurse them. or Cartesian self-reflectivity. and we can only look up through overcast skies. I see truth ‘in’ God. but also above and beyond the individual soul.

but to know whether he sinned. it is possible to act other than as one is. according to which we fi nd ourselves in the early medieval saint. and in Plutarch’s Lives. “retrospective anticipation. who can introspect on her “true” self. and different from Rousseau’s inner self in particular. is a tenet made clear in the fi nal books of Augustine’s Confessions. the inner self in Augustine is very different from the interiority of the modern confessing subject. Ann Hartle also argues that the notion of an inner self and its relation to truth is markedly different in Augustine than in the modern subject. and yet this Other is no longer one’s fellow citizen but God. Like Cary. or about the fact that we conceive of interiority at all. For Rousseau. or criticize.”47 As for Plutarch. and not only on the activities of that self in the world (did he touch the boy?). . the modern self. for it is the individual herself who can see who she is. As Cary also shows.” or who read Augustinian interiority as like our own. Augustine and Rousseau should be contrasted rather than compared. while the differences between Augustine’s inner self and our own shows that there is nothing inevitable or universal about our current way of conceiving of interiority.30 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault soul. Hanby calls such a reading of Augustine. This novelty is that Augustine introspects on the states of the inner self (how did he desire the boy?). Augustine “is what he is for God. however. [ . Importantly. . she notes that there was no inner self for the ancient Greeks. truth does not reside in this inner self. which. . but one’s motivations and desires. are ignored by most scholars of Augustine who assume the “continuity theory. and it is not only one’s exterior actions which the Other observes. citizens simply “are no more and no other than what they show themselves to be in their public (visible) acts.” and argues that the price of this anticipation is a “standard omission of those specifically Christian aspects of Augustine’s thought that might radically redefi ne. and Hartle each make clear.”46 In contrast. Hanby. ] Augustine has his being from and through another: he is what God sees him to be. Only God can say what Augustine is. Augustine is not interested in his desires in order to know who he is (is he homosexual?). important to note that unlike the modern confessing subject. things are different again. as Cary. the notion of a private inner self occurs quite contingently in Augustine. for Augustine it is in the eyes of another that one is. or to “not be oneself. For Rousseau. It is.”45 One instance of this is the privileging of the earlier books of the Confessions over the fi nal books. which privileging facilitates a reading of the Confessions as autobiographical.”48 Cary’s analysis of the Augustinian notion of an inner self supports Foucault’s insight that something new is happening in Augustine which differentiates his thought from that of the ancient Greeks. and this self may be very different from what it seems to be in the eyes of others who can judge her only by her acts. For Hartle. as shall be seen below. for instance. Moreover.

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 31 AGENCY In a project which is contemporary with and in some ways similar to Foucault’s late work on the aesthetics of the self, Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-fashioning, Greenblatt notes, like Foucault, that “selfconsciousness about the fashioning of human identity as a manipulable, artful process [ . . . ] had been wide-spread among the élite in the classical world.” He continues: “but Christianity brought a growing suspicion of man’s power to shape identity: ‘Hands off yourself,’ Augustine declared. ‘Try to build up yourself, and you build a ruin.’”49 As seen, Foucault also stresses that Greek aesthetic practices of the self altered with the early Christian period with respect to autonomy, and here the reference to the preoccupation with active penetration in the Greeks being replaced by a focus on passive erection in Augustine might actually be relevant. Greenblatt’s reference to Augustine shows the saint’s ambivalence about whether human beings could shape or fashion their selves any more than they can control their corporeal responses of sexual arousal. Interestingly, Augustine speaks of trying to build oneself up, not of being able to do so. If one is able to build oneself up, if there does exist the possibility of self-fashioning autonomy which the Greeks assumed, then Augustine merely predicts that the results will always be disastrous, or that one ought not to pursue this possibility. One ought rather to put oneself in God’s hands, whether or not one has any choice in doing so. But perhaps Augustine is suggesting that we only try to “build ourselves up” out of fallacious human vanity, not realizing that only God can do the work of human fashioning. The ambivalence of this word “try” points to an undecidability in Augustine’s Confessions as to whether he is responsible for his own self-fashioning, for either his sinful past or for his righteous conversion. Augustine seems uncertain as to whether he is responsible for who he is, for his sins, and even for his relation to God, and this ambivalence is tied to his long theological prevarication on the question of evil. The problem of evil, or whether God is to be attributed with all apparent evils and not just Augustine’s own, remains a complex and undecidable one in the Confessions. While the early Augustine defended human free choice against Manichaean determinism, the later Augustine would argue against Pelagian assertions of free will, which appeared to him to be a denial of the omnipotence of God and of the necessity of grace. 50 Thirteen years after writing the Confessions, Augustine would maintain that humans had been so weakened by Adam’s sin that they could only will evil, and so any good deeds on their parts were due to God’s grace. In this case Adam is, in a sense, to blame for all of an individual’s sins, while God’s grace is responsible for all of her good deeds. Accordingly, an individual is not the agent of anything she does, whether good or bad. Moreover, these good and bad deeds have nothing to do with whether or not one will be damned or saved. The late Augustine will argue that following the Fall, all


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

humans became sinners and were thus damned, but God intervenes out of mercy in some cases, allowing “the grace of baptism to a few.”51 Contrary to later Christian doctrine, it is, for Augustine, baptism alone—or, in rarer cases, martyrdom—which determines who will be saved and who will be damned, and not the number or quality or the recognition and confession of one’s sins. Which humans are to be granted grace, moreover, is for the aging bishop a matter of predestination, and so nothing an individual can do can influence whether or not she will receive grace. 52 If she “chooses” to get baptized or to embrace martyrdom, for instance, she is not in fact choosing but is being bestowed with God’s grace. In what Gerald Bonner has called “the horrifying aspect of Augustine’s theology,”53 the bishop of Hippo would argue that individuals who do not receive grace, including unbaptized infants, go to Hell. Subjects are held responsible or punished for their sinful states even though this state follows from Adam’s trespass and from God’s failure to intervene. While this is a frightening theory, according to which one is born damned or saved and can do nothing to save oneself, the later Augustine simply maintained that God’s wisdom was beyond human understanding. Against Pelagius, who insisted that individuals take full responsibility for their acts, Augustine, in Hampl’s words, argued for “a fallen, flawed human nature, helpless in sin without the intervention of God’s provident and salvific grace.”54 According to Bonner, “Augustine’s immediate purpose was to prevent any possible reliance on good works as a cause for salvation and so commend humility to his readers.”55 While early and late Augustine seem to be in utter confl ict on the question of evil and human responsibility, arguing fi rst for and later against free will in exchanges with his various theological interlocutors, Bonner claims that even in his early writings, when he argued that man was free, what most readers do not realize is that Augustine was only referring to man’s state before the Fall. 56 According to Bonner, fallen humanity was never free for Augustine, even at the time of the writing of the Confessions. This does not seem to be entirely clear, however, as the following discussion shall show. If we look at the Confessions, it is true that at all times Augustine gives God full credit for his good deeds. With respect to Augustine’s evil deeds, however, things are quite a bit more complicated. At times, entirely consistent with his later theological views, Augustine attributes his evil deeds to a fallen human nature and to God’s refusal to “speak” to him or to grant him grace. As such, he presents himself as the passive victim of Adam’s crime and of God’s plan. Of one period of sin, for instance, he writes: “But I was far too impetuous, poor wretch, so I went with the floodtide of my nature and abandoned you.”57 In sinning, Augustine is merely acting according to his nature as a fallen man, and is a “poor wretch” helpless to stop himself. In other passages, we see Augustine abdicate responsibility to God in his repeated questions with respect to the absence and silence of God which

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 33 allowed him to be led astray: “Where were you at that time?”58; “You see this, Lord, but you are very patient and look on silently [ . . . ] Will you always remain silent?”59; “and you were silent. [ . . . ] At that time you kept silence as I continued to wander far from you [ . . . ].”60 In these cases, it seems that Augustine does evil because it was not part of God’s plan to grant him grace until later in life. God thus remains silent and refrains from intervening in acts which followed from Augustine’s fallen nature. Nevertheless, at other times Augustine seems to think that he is responsible for his sins, while God remains responsible only for his good deeds. For instance, he writes: “when I am bad, confession to you is simply disgust with myself, but when I am good, confession to you consists in not attributing my goodness to myself [ . . . ] because you have fi rst made him just when he was sinful.”61 Or again: “The good derive from you and are your gift; the evil are my sins and your punishments.”62 Despite Bonner’s claim that Augustine never believed that fallen man was free to choose not to sin, Augustine’s “disgust” for himself seems to suggest some sense of agency, although it remains possible that he is simply disgusted with himself for having been born with a fallen nature to which God has not yet chosen to grant grace. However, more problematically for Bonner’s thesis, in the overwhelming number of cases Augustine neither accepts guilt for his sins nor attributes responsibility for them to his nature or to God but, rather, blames other human beings. Throughout the Confessions Augustine takes recourse to lengthy excuses, blaming social influences such as family and friends. It seems that if Augustine had already dismissed the idea of human agency for sins, he would not attribute agency to other humans as a means to exculpate his own agency. If Augustine sinned because he was born to do so, there would seem to be no point in blaming other people for his sins, or in reproaching them for what they had no agency to prevent. The fact that Augustine does blame other people for his sins would seem to require that we nuance Derrida’s claim that Augustine confesses because he knows he is guilty, in contrast to Rousseau who confesses to prove he is innocent.63 I will take some examples. First, Augustine blames his teachers: “Small wonder, then, that I was swept off helplessly after profitless things and borne away from you, my God. The models proposed to me for imitation were people who would have been caught out and covered with confusion if they had related any of their doings.”64 He also blames his family: “Who was there to alleviate my distress? No one took thought to arrange a marriage for me, so that my pursuit of fleeting beauties through most ignoble experiences might be diverted into useful channels. Some bounds might have been set to my pleasures if only the stormy surge of my adolescence had flung me up onto the shore of matrimony”65; “Yet none of my family made any attempt to avert my ruin by arranging a marriage for me; their only concern was that I should learn to excel in rhetoric and persuasive speech.”66 He then blames his pagan father: “[ . . . ] all the while this same father


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

of mine was unconcerned about how I would grow up for you, and cared little that I should be chaste, provided I was intellectually cultivated.”67 Surprisingly, he even blames his mother, Saint Monica, who spent most of her life weeping and praying for her son’s conversion: “My natural mother had by this time fled from the centre of Babylon, though she still lingered in its suburbs. She warned me to live chastely, but did not extend her care to restraining within the bounds of conjugal love (if it could not be cut right back to the quick) this behavior of mine, of which she had heard from her husband, even though she judged it to be corrupt already and likely to be dangerous in the future.”68 Augustine also blames his Manichean companions: “I was being subtly maneuvered [ . . . ]”69 At the same time, in repenting his Manichean delusions, Augustine argues that it is a sin to not accept the blame for one’s own misdoings: It still seemed to me [in his Manichean period], that it is not we who sin, but some other nature within us that is responsible. My pride was gratified at being exculpated by this theory [ . . . ] I liked to excuse myself and lay the blame on some other force that was with me but was not myself. But in truth it was all myself. My impious ideal had set up a division, pitting me against myself, and my sin was the more incurable for my conviction that I was not a sinner. It was a detestable wrong, almighty God [ . . . ]70 Surprisingly, given what he has just said, Augustine continues, “You had not yet set a guard over my mouth or a chaste gate at my lips to keep my heart from straying into evil talk, and from making excuses for itself in its sins as it consorted with evildoers.” In this contradictory passage, Augustine says it is a “detestable wrong” to not accept blame for one’s own sins, and yet immediately implies that God is responsible for his sin of blaming others, since it is God who had not yet put a gate at his lips or a guard over his mouth, which attribution of the responsibility for the fashioning of mortals with God is, once more, consistent with Augustine’s later theological position. Interestingly, in the Confessions, of all the attributions of blame, it is only the accusation directed at God which Augustine ultimately retracts, when he cries, “Alas for me! Do I dare to say that you were silent, my God, when I was straying from you? Were you really silent to me at that time?,”71 admitting that God was speaking to him through Monica, and thus that he, Augustine, was at fault for not listening to her/Him, and thus for his sinful self-fashioning. In this case, it seems that the fact that it took Augustine a long time to fi nd God and to be baptized was not a result of God’s decision to not speak to Augustine, to not grant him mercy and grace until later in life, but was the fault of Augustine’s refusal to hear God and to respond. This is, of course, inconsistent with Augustine’s later theological views and with Bonner’s claim that at no point did Augustine attribute agency to fallen humanity.

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 35 In the end, there is no clear conclusion to be drawn in the Confessions with respect to the question of free will, of human agency or self-fashioning potential, and of evil, just as there is no clear answer for Augustine as to who fashioned him, whether he is a product of his family and teachers as well as of nature and God, whether he is responsible for his self-fashioning and sinful in denying this, whether God fashioned him entirely, or whether he is responsible only for having fashioned his sinful side, while God fashioned all parts of him that are good. With respect to autonomy, Augustine thus prevaricates between ancient techniques of the self which assumed the power to self-fashion, and his own later doctrine of a sinful and ultimately passive human nature.

AUDIENCE While Seneca and the early Christian monk both knew to whom they were speaking (Seneca to himself, the monk to his spiritual advisor), Augustine appears unable to decide on this matter, much as he cannot decide, in the Confessions, on the question of evil. In particular, Augustine does not know whether he is writing the Confessions for himself, for God, or for his fellow Christians, or what good these Confessions could do for any of these possible audiences. Les W. Smith describes Augustine three and a half centuries after Seneca as “stammering” as he repeatedly remembers to address himself to God, after periods of apparently speaking to himself.72 It is even more complex than this, however, as Augustine is not convinced that he should be addressing himself to God any more than he should be speaking to himself. On the one hand, it is true that he frequently says that he is confessing to God, however he also often underscores that God is already aware of everything he has done and everything in his heart, and so this address, and putting it into words, and words on paper, is seemingly superfluous: “But the abyss of the human conscience lies naked to your eyes, O Lord, so would anything in me be secret even if I were unwilling to confess to you? I would be hiding you from myself, but not myself from you.”73 Indeed, Augustine occasionally notes that God knows better than Augustine what he has done and thought, since Augustine must rely on his human and thus fallible memory: “Is my recollection not accurate, Lord God, judge of my conscience?”74 On the other hand, he imagines his book being read by other “worshipers,”75 and thus thinks that he is writing for fellow Christians. The book is not simply intended for a mortal, as opposed to divine, audience, however, as non-Christians are explicitly excluded. Augustine even fears that his text will fall into the hands of non-believers, apparently because they will mock him, which seems to worry him more than he loves the possibility that he might persuade them towards conversion with his arguments and example. He states that he wants a “brotherly,” Christian, sympathetic audience, and does not want “strangers” and “foes” to read him.76 On yet


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

another hand, however, Augustine problematizes the notion of confessing to other human beings at all: What point is there for me in other people hearing my confessions? Are they likely to heal my infirmities? A curious lot they are, eager to pry into the lives of others, but tardy when it comes to correcting their own. Why should they seek to hear from me what I am, when they are reluctant to hear from you what they are? And when they hear from me about myself, how do they know that I am speaking the truth, since no one knows what goes on inside a person except the spirit of that person within him?77 While God will at least be able to attest to the veracity of Augustine’s Confessions, a mortal audience will have no way of knowing that they are even true. If they are already faithful, the text is once more superfluous, whereas if they are non-believers, it is unlikely that Augustine will persuade them where God’s own Word has failed. Furthermore, other human beings could mock Augustine for what he writes, and so he tells God: “for it is to your mercy that I address myself, not to some man who would mock me.”78 Still, he writes: But to whom am I telling this story? Not to you, my God; rather in your presence I am relating these events to my own kin, the human race, however few of them may chance upon these writings of mine. And why? So that whoever reads them may reflect with me on the depths from which we must cry to you. What fi nds a readier hearing with you than a heart that confesses to you, a life lived from faith?79 It is perhaps due to his own arguments against confessing to other people, and awareness of the apparent pointlessness of confessing to God, that Augustine, when confessing to his theft of pears, takes recourse to addressing himself to his theft itself: “What did I love in you, O my theft, what did I love in you, the nocturnal crime of my sixteenth year?”80 This is an odd passage which speaks to the confusion regarding audience in the Confessions, and a passage which fascinates Derrida.81 Such an address occurs only once, however, while for the most part Augustine is divided between confessing to God and to other people. An intermediate position is found when the saint claims not to be confessing to God, which is unnecessary, but “in God’s presence”: “Now, in God’s presence, I will describe my twentyninth year.”82 It must, however, be “to my own kin” that he confesses in God’s presence, if the confession is to be slightly useful at all. Of such a limited use, he writes: “It is cheering to good people to hear about the past evil deeds of those who are now freed from them: cheering not because the deeds were evil but because they existed once but exist no more.”83 Removing ourselves a bit from Augustine’s own claims, a worldly reason for confessing to his fellow Christians is suggested by Hampl, who notes that Augustine wrote his Confessions at a time when his ecclesiastical

and would second take attention away from the changes he underwent in 391 and the difficulties surrounding them. he had wished with his entire being to be a recluse. O’Donnell.”84 By describing that past and how he had repented for it and converted. including our own. but to Christianitydegree-zero. for instance. in yet another contrast it can be seen that Augustine’s Confessions lack the serenity which Seneca claims characterize his self-examinations. Augustine wished only to explore his personal relationship with God intellectually and hermitically. and whose success would make it hard for later centuries. Augustine’s writing of the Confessions was “part of a movement to create a new kind of bishop and a new kind of church. Unable to live as a recluse. casts precisely this version of events into doubt. According to O’Donnell. these forays into the interhuman would in any case be half-hearted. Christianity plain and simple. we accept the veracity of Augustine’s own telling of his story too quickly.”86 O’Donnell suggests.85 If we accept Augustine’s versions of events. James J. to see the scope of the transformation. Christianity at the hands of an undoubted saintly and orthodox bishop of imperial distinction. however. that the historical Augustine was not simply recording his life and his self in the Confessions. not to Caecilianism.”87 He continues: The religion that Augustine and his Caecilianist/catholic contemporaries were creating was the high-tech religion of late antiquity—Christianity . He converted. does little more than “present without comment a slightly abridged translation of the crucial passage from the Confessions. not knowing whether he is responsible for his self or for his sins. Peter Brown’s retelling of the conversion in the garden in his biography of Augustine. a movement that would be astonishingly successful over the next quarter-century. and only became ordained as a priest and then as a bishop with reluctance. Augustine may have hoped to counter these accusations. or towards whom to direct his praise of God. and to live a life of meditation and prayer. his narrative suggested. however.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 37 authority was being attacked “by politically motivated rumors about his sensational past. however. but rather that the text was part of a process of constructing a new life and self for the recently ordained bishop. noting that “Augustine had every interest in telling the story he did. pursuing the suspicious opportuneness of Augustine’s Confessions. and the existing biographies of Augustine remain overlycredulous of the author’s account. As O’Donnell puts it. According to Augustine’s own account. not to take up the worldly roles of priest and bishop.” As O’Donnell elaborates: To make the centerpiece of his life a whole-hearted conversion to authentic Christianity in 386 would first repel the claims of continuing Manichaeism. and not knowing to whom to describe these. O’Donnell supports this explanation. weeping through his entire ordination ceremony.

” and do not suggest that we naïvely insist that Augustine’s own version of events is the historically accurate one (as Brown does). “Augustine. But much of the real experience of their lives was thereby effaced and moved into the shadow world of the things that were unconfessed. and thus his intention to construct a new self through his writing. to disbelieve Augustine’s interpretation of the “facts. For one thing. be engaged in defending themselves against the rumors being circulated against them by slanderers. Augustine’s self-constitution through the writing of the Confessions. and if this is the case.”89 What O’Donnell’s interpretation does is to foreground the importance of Augustine’s intention to be overheard in this world. O’Donnell’s Augustine is perhaps too suspiciously akin to Rousseau: both of the writers of the canonical Confessions would. However I do propose that we believe that the tone and the contradictions of the text are genuine. however.38 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault constituted by texts and by leaders who were masters of textual interpretation and production—leaders who knew how to confess and in confessing to make a new past for themselves and thus a new future. despite Augustine’s own command of “Hands off yourself. were a process of Augustine building himself up. and this built self is the entity which we call “Augustine” to this day. with O’Donnell. then. then things are more complicated than O’Donnell assumes. then Augustine is closer to the ancient Greeks and Romans than we would have thought. Augustine seems genuinely confused with respect to his audience. or that autobiography may be confounded with biography. and was actively involved in self-fashioning in his Confessions. I am entirely willing. This architectural accomplishment. on this model. If we believe that the emotional pitch of Augustine’s text is at all sincere. and is preoccupied by theological questions. was not the ruin that Augustine himself would have predicted. . then we will conclude that Augustine’s self-confidence in his self-fashioning abilities is tenuous compared to that of the Seneca. with respect to the purpose of his writings. Does O’Donnell project Rousseau’s project onto Augustine without realizing it? Moreover. but was instead a remarkably successful architectural achievement.” is continually renewed through the preservation activities of contemporary biographers. intended to be overheard by anxious and critical fellow Christians. Henry Chadwick is probably right in characterizing the Confessions as an extraordinary “prose-poem addressed to God.” the Confessions are a hands-on approach to the writer’s life and a practice of self-transformation which would rival those of antiquity explored by Foucault. like to resist an entire acceptance of O’Donnell’s reading. O’Donnell requires that we disbelieve Augustine’s own voice in the Confessions.88 If O’Donnell is right. and with respect to his (or God’s? or Adam’s?) responsibility for who he is. on this interpretation. as O’Donnell reads them. The Confessions. or that the philosophical confusion and theological anguish which pervade the Confessions are sincere. I would. If O’Donnell is correct.

another problematic aspect of O’Donnell’s interpretation is that. and ultimately to return to Him. the saint writes of a very different “human” longing: “Great are you. which is perhaps why he still appeals to us. Moreover. .”91 In the following sentence. . but in the opportunity to praise God. ] And so we humans. rather. this is typical of contemporary readings of the Confessions. O Lord. they will disappear when Augustine has praised God to the point that he becomes inebriated by Him in a drunkenness which will drown all worldly anxieties and all reflections on the self. claims that Augustine wrote his Confessions for the same reasons that people write confessional autobiographies today. that you would come into my heart and inebriate it. Augustine repeats the expression of this human longing. strangely. AUTOBIOGRAPHY? It was seen that Berggren. O’Donnell seems to ignore the distinctly religious purposes of Augustine’s text. and yet the appeasement that it seeks does not seem to be sought in self-revelation. and yet he does not suggest that it is introspection which will cure him of his psychological torment. still do long to praise you. as pop-psychology would today advise. “You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy. “Who will grant me this grace.”90 And yet. enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you. The Confessions are the process of becoming drunk. or of fashioning a new bishop through his text.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 39 Augustine’s project of self-constitution.” a self-revelation sought as an unburdening of memory. and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you. This continuity between Augustine and the confessional writings of. A few lines further and Augustine asks.”92 The human being is once more described as anxious or “unquiet. as seen. in the first two sentences of Augustine’s Confessions. .” Augustine seems closer to the modern confessant than to the serene Seneca. Rousseau. in The Psychology of Confession. on my reading. as with the readings of Augustine’s text which see it as a prototype of modern. Peter Brown. say.” as in the modern confessional. due part of your creation as they are. long to praise you. calls Augustine’s Confessions “therapy. but rather that he will drown out his woes by becoming drunk with God. my only good?” Not only unquiet but “beset. secular autobiographies. and exceedingly worthy of praise [ . almost verbatim: “Yet these humans. is important to note. It is not speaking of the “evils that beset” Augustine which will make those evils disappear. and thus the resonance of the Confessions with ancient practices of the self. who are a due part of your creation. of self-forgetting.” He continues. because you have made us and drawn us to yourself. As shall be seen in the following section. but one of the many contradictory threads with which the Confessions are woven. would be what Zora Neale Hurston has described as expressing “that oldest human longing—self-revelation. but it is. in insisting that Augustine’s audience and intentions were primarily worldly ones.

Augustine is compelled to write his Confessions. Augustine longs to know God with a desperation which matches the fascination that the modern subject has for knowing herself. is the painful longing which pulsates through the entire Confessions. and moreover wants to make other people know through his writings. a so-called “confession. “Grant me to know and understand. tell me what you are to me. while questioning again and again his own right to speak and the pointlessness of this speech. Say to my soul. Augustine asks God. but rather to know God and to praise him. but Augustine asks instead. open the ears of my heart and say to my soul. but by the longing to hear the Other speak at last. and implores Him to speak. I am your salvation. then. “What are you. severed from the context of the rest of the . speaking because he wishes to listen to one who has too long remained silent. for not to see it would be death to me indeed. which comes fi rst: to call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you?” These seem to be the tasks which Augustine sees his book as undertaking in his introductory lines of his Confessions. not by the need to speak about himself. but rather laments again and again the silence of God. which are collected in and commented upon in anthologies and scholarship on autobiography. who he is. Moreover. . and is anxious and beset. not like Rousseau. Say it so that I can hear it. and this is combined with the fact that his writings are. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it. This straining of his ears. My heart is listening. a question of JeanJacques and nothing else. This is the prayer with which Augustine begins his Confessions: O Lord my God.94 Augustine is writing in the hopes that God will respond. and not the longing for self-revelation. . Rousseau wants to know. crying out in the hopes of an answer. ]?”93 He does not seek throughout his Confessions to know or to divulge himself. autobiographical material in the work. right away. Augustine does not speak of his own silence or of having been silenced. Unlike almost every modern confessional subject. which is very different from the introduction to Rousseau’s Confessions in which it is certainly. Lord. and throughout the text he cries out to God to reveal Himself. the ears even of his heart.” and that there is. Lord. after all.40 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Wondering how to begin his Confessions. I am your salvation. it is these self-referential passages which we most often read. of course. Then why are the Confessions so often invoked as the prototype of modern autobiographies? Why are they read as an expression of the same autobiographical impulse which characterizes later confessional writings? I think we recognize in Augustine the anxieties and disquiet with which we enter into our own confessional discourses. in the introduction to his Confessions. my God? What are you. I ask [ . Let me run toward this voice and seize hold of you.

Rather. There are many ways in which Augustine professes his faith in the Confessions.96 To respond to Hampl’s confusion. and XIII)? Perhaps the speculation on memory makes sense in an autobiography. since they cannot be read as therapy itself. perhaps. and the stories of other faithful person’s lives. it is important to note that autobiography and autobiographical confession occur as only two of many methods for proclaiming Augustine’s faith and for praising God. and seems to regret its presence. and. . are referred to as the product of a successful therapy. not less. a discussion of the fi nal four books. were ‘his life. are at least equally important to the text. speculative essay on memory (Book X). is not entered into in any detail. without explanation or apology. She openly wonders why there is so much non-autobiographical material in the work. refutations of competing faiths. non-autobiographical books are problematic. and so the last four. and not the long meditations on theological matters. in the . She asks: But why the fi nal four books? Why ruin the narrative symmetry of his life story by attaching a long. Patricia Hampl also wishes to read Augustine as a proto-modern autobiographer. and is more frank than Brown about the consternation which the last four books of Augustine’s text cause for such a reading. and recounting her fi nal hours and his grief in Book IX. such as prayer. Augustine moves smoothly.”95 Brown wants to understand the Confessions as an autobiography which brings Augustine closer to modern man and his therapeutic practices. XII. It is this therapy of self-examination which has. the other vehicles he employs to this same end. through the long chapter on memory into an extended allegorical meditation on the opening lines of the Creation story of Genesis as if this. biblical exegesis. Brown.” also hones in on the usual passages: Augustine’s theft of pears. and. In Brown’s chapter on the Confessions. . his separation from his mistress. Brown simply describes them as “illustrat[ing] directly the effects of the therapy [Augustine] has just undergone. and a fi nal intense reading of the opening lines of Genesis (Books XI.’ [ .Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 41 book. which is rooted in personal recollection. his reflections on erotic temptation. theological arguments. chapters on time and eternity. too. brought Augustine closest to the best traditions of our own age. only one of which is his description of his personal relation to God. therefore. urgent. ] compelled to reveal himself. As such. . they are passed over quickly. But after writing the sublime scene in Ostia with Monica. and to counter the assumption that Augustine’s work functions just like contemporary confessional literature as Berggren implies. in his discussion of the Augustine as an “autobiographer [ . . judging from the relative bulk as well as the passion with which they are written. which are entirely non-autobiographical. as if it were the most natural thing in the world. ] The writing becomes more.

just a short step away from writing yourself.42 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault course of which he tells of his sins as well as of his more righteous deeds and thoughts. as other autobiographical explorations of subjectivity.’ the doorway to the oracle at Delphi counseled. were confessions of faith rather than autobiographies. was a cult founded on the narrative of a single life—that of Jesus of Nazareth—may help to explain the appeal of the life stories in Christian literary culture. and it was a confession of faith.99 reads even earlier testimonials of Christian lives. Augustine writes. just as she insists on reading Augustine. it is not clear here that it is those . Lacking the drama of these martyrs. other ways of describing God’s existence and goodness. . Knowing yourself had always been. Regarding the relation between confession and forgiveness. was less than a century away from outlaw status. “you are merciful toward the sins of those who confess to you. sangfroid testimonials written at the edge of martyrdom by the early saints were a traditional genre for pious Christians. As Hampl notes but cannot explain.98 Thus Hampl. Although Hampl reluctantly realizes that for Augustine. dashed off immediately before martyrdom. Even further back. ‘Know yourself. however. as she is narrowly reading the work as a monument in the history of autobiography in the West. seem an unlikely preoccupation for people about to be thrown to lions. The fact that Christianity. of knowing oneself. What these martyrs were concerned with at the moments that they wrote their testimonials was a proclamation of their faith in God. “His story [ . and continuing into our own. The Catholic Church. following Brown. which they believed was necessary for their salvation. unlike either Judaism or the religions of the Greeks and Romans. since 310 the orthodox religion of the Roman Empire.”97 the fact that the last third of the book contains no autobiographical elements at all clearly remains a puzzling flaw as far as she is concerned. Christian and pagan. Literary explorations of subjectivity. refi ned late-Roman Christians could still be edified by the inner struggles of good and evil in the formula conversion tales of their contemporaries. She writes: There had been autobiographies. and not a confession of sins. thus ensuring their salvation after death. for the West. before Augustine’s. like Augustine’s. The harrowing. . which is what they were willing to be martyred for. Their confessional writings. the pagan West had honored the notion of self as the pathway of spiritual ascent.”100 Despite later Christian and secular moral notions of a causal relation between admitting to wrong-doings and forgiveness for them. the transition for Augustine between the account of his mother’s death to reflections on theological matters is indeed smooth since he is considering his own life and that of his mother only as other theological proofs. ] is apparently only part of the story.

Augustine is confessing to a faith in order to ensure or attest to his personal salvation and the forgiveness of his sins. and independent of an avowal of particular sins. seem more to the point. although he had a fourteen-year-long monogamous relationship with a . confessing one’s sins would be of little purpose. Nevertheless. not the confession of the sins themselves. but confess his faith. since these are His doing. and not one’s own. on the other hand. His grace. Indeed this seems to describe the tone of the Confessions: it is more important to confess to faith than deeds since it is the former which ensures salvation. as well as long prayers. or to baptism. which brought about salvation. is but one way among others to tell of one’s faith. since God is responsible for all of one’s good deeds.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 43 sins towards which God is merciful that Augustine is here claiming one must confess. as in the fi rst years of early Christians. or telling the tale of one’s conversion to that faith— whether this led to martyrdom. Rather. but to our faith in Him. and hence Augustine does not know for whom he is writing or why. and not a recognition or confession of one’s sins. Much that one might expect to be included in an autobiography is furthermore absent. what Verecundus does on his deathbed to ensure his entry into heaven is not confess to his sins. and it is this act of confession which ensures that God will be merciful with respect to his sins. even if this baptism occurs only on their deathbeds. for Augustine. This becomes clear when Augustine reveals his assumption that those who are baptized into Christianity. and not the most crucial one. and of God’s mercy in forgiving them. are forgiven for all their sins. For this reason. the fi rst nine books of the Confessions also contain entire sections about other people’s lives. including conversion. It was seen above that for Augustine it was baptism or martyrdom alone. God is merciful with respect to our sins if we confess not to the sins themselves. extensive theological debates. God already knows of these conversions since he engineered them. As such. metaphysical questions. and out of a longing for God’s response rather than for self-knowledge. He tells the story of Verecundus who converts and thus declares his faith in Christianity only at the very end of a life. and so at this stage in his writing. The profession of sins. and refutations of rival faiths. such as the section called “Monica’s story” in Book IX.”101 Despite the later Christian practice of last confession. writing that on these grounds alone he is guaranteed “the delights of your verdant paradise for ever. thus proclaiming their faith. conversion and baptism as acts declaring one’s faith would not necessarily be acts in vain. notably anything not directly relevant to Augustine’s faith: for instance. Even if it is the last four books which most strikingly pose a problem for a reading according to which Augustine is writing about his life and not primarily about his faith. Confessing one’s faith. as in Augustine’s case—would. like the martyrs. yet even a confession of the faith is futile since God already knows of one’s conversion and faith. since it is conversion and baptism which save. The Confessions predate Augustine’s doctrine of predestination.

Conversion is a climactic moment in a declaration of faith. . this indicates that Augustine is writing his faith. not his life. among others. but that child’s baptism in adulthood is fully described.’ In confessing his faith and in praising God. Augustine was apparently devoted to this woman. and not with their lives more generally. . Again. That which does resemble autobiography here. In confessing his sins Augustine discovers his inner self in shame before the face of God. for example. it is clear that his criteria for inclusion in his Confessions is that the event be relevant to a declaration of his faith. and not just his strayings from God.”102 Bernasconi goes on to observe that in one of his sermons Augustine criticized those who when they heard the word ‘confession’ only thought of sin and started beating their breasts. what we heard of these years is primarily the theological questions he was pondering at the time. like the writings of early Christian martyrs which Hampl and Brown refer to as autobiographical precedents. praise the just and good God. she is never named.” Despite this passion for her. Rather. rather than important to his life in general. Augustine asserted his faith before mankind. . which faith is also declared by Augustine in multiple manners besides autobiography.44 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault woman. goes unmentioned. and his life is recorded only in so far as it is a vehicle. since Augustine recounts many aspects of his life which are pertinent to professing his faith. is not necessarily confessional in the sense of avowing to sins. The birth of Augustine’s only child. but even the existence of Adeodatus is never mentioned until he converts to Christianity with Augustine. Robert Bernasconi notes that “in the early middle ages the fi rst questions penitents were asked were not about their sins. This is not so extraordinary if one reflects on the word ‘confession’ which extends to both the confession of faith and the confession of sins. This commonlaw wife bore Augustine a son. At that time the rite of reconciliation required sinners to make a confession of faith as well as a confession of sins and this double sense of confession is displayed by Augustine’s Confessions itself. are concerned with their tales of conversion. the presence of a child in his household for over twenty years. in his reference in the Retractions to how ‘the 13 books of my Confessions of what is evil in me and what is good. once more suggesting that the task he is engaged in is not what we would normally consider confessional in the autobiographical sense. and indeed she is never mentioned except when Augustine notes that he began to live with her. moreover. Even if we want to conclude that Augustine was a callous lover and father. ] So deeply was she engrafted into my heart that it was left torn and wounded and trailing blood. he has not written a word about her in his account of the previous fourteen years. and when he much later describes having to send her away. This is why Augustine’s Confessions. It is reflected. as when he had to abandon her he describes the event as having her “ripped from my side [ . for writing his faith. but about their beliefs.

Rather. [ . ‘Who is like you. Writing of his life thus functions as a means of confessing to the acts of God. “Accept the sacrifice of my confessions offered to you by the power of this tongue of mine which you have fashioned and aroused to confess to your name. A bit later. and these synonyms are not followed by “my sins” but by “to God” or “to faith” or “to Jesus” or “to your name. it should be clear that we need to hesitate before seeing his Confessions as prototype of modern autobiographical writings. blessed in heaven and on earth. this argument can also be made by considering the way Augustine employs the term “confession” and describes its function throughout his work.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 45 Confession in this double sense has a complex structure. while they are also unlike ancient practices of self-writing . . what Augustine would confess to God are God’s own mercies. so that all your worshipers who hear my tale may exclaim. . to which autobiography and confession in the sense of avowing to sins. or his own actions at all. these are a testament to God’s benevolence and forgiveness. as it did in early medieval questionings of penitents. and which is the ancestor of modern practices of self-examination. when present at all. in the glory of God the Father”105. O my God. Augustine writes: “In a spirit of thankfulness let me recall the mercies you lavished on me. Augustine uses the words “confession” and “profession” interchangeably. one which was transformed when confession came to be dominated by the examination of conscience and associated with the philosophical task of pursuing self-knowledge. and yet what I have argued is that it is the latter sense of confession which both predominates and subsumes the former in Augustine’s writings. to positive acts on the part of God. to His mercy and name. ] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. for great and wonderful is his name.”107 In the last two cases. while so far as the text is preoccupied with Augustine’s former sins. that it may give you glory. he is far more interested in confessing to God’s doings. ] But allow my soul to give you glory that it may love you more.’108 This is the objective of Augustine’s text. Finally.”106 Here. O Lord?’ Let me offer you a sacrifice of praise. . confessing clearly means declaring a certain religious belief. ‘Blessed be the Lord. Augustine writes: May I be flooded with love for you until my very bones cry out.”104 He writes: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow [ . and let it confess to you your own merciful dealings. while it is the former sense of confession which would later prevail. to you let me confess them. for you have snapped my bonds.103 Augustine clearly confesses both in the sense of recounting his sins and in the sense of professing his faith. How you broke them let me relate. are subordinated. or to God’s name itself. . To conclude with Augustine. and thus we see that the confessions he has in mind are not to be conceived of as exclusively concerning his own sins.

MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN CHRISTIAN CONFESSION Moving Indoors: From Public to Private Penance It has now been seen why Foucault may have excluded Augustine from his genealogy of confession. and nor are they like the ancient practices of self-examination which interest Foucault as strategic alternatives to modern confession. however. during these centuries. however. Berggren.46 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault because they are not overtly concerned with self-fashioning. or public rituals of humiliation and asceticism. but in declaring his faith in God. followed by a lifetime of sexual abstinence and restricted offices. for many centuries there was a fluctuation between. Augustine’s work is neither an example of discipline nor of self-care. and moreover confession to . confessions were not central to adjudication and legal practice. Many Christians would thus never have confessed or done penance. and we thus return to his dichotomized view of the development of Christian confession. although we might be able to fi nd moments of such self-examination in Augustine’s text. the saint’s own project lay primarily neither in administering nor in interpreting his self. although the monastic form of confession eventually triumphed. as Le Goff writes: “secret sins require secret penance. explains Foucault’s neglect of Augustine’s text.”111 Similarly. public sins require public penance. and as such these spectacular penances were usually only resorted to for serious sins and no more than once in a lifetime. I suggest. and monastic “permanent verbalization” or confession to one’s spiritual advisor on the other. and theological debate regarding the relative merits of public penance and private forms of confession. and only by the most fastidious believers. This neither/nor status. Foucault was arguably not drawn to write on Augustine’s Confessions in his genealogical study of confession (narrowly construed as truthful self-examination) because. For Foucault.” to use Le Goff’s word. 110 As Mortimer writes.”109 Until the seventh century. co-existence of. or to penitential exercises or “selfpublication” on the one hand. and it is thus neither an example of the problem nor of the solution. and confession was certainly not a “habit. Augustine’s Confessions are neither like the modern form of confession which Foucault wishes to problematize. and so the only means of attaining forgiveness for sins for non-clerics was canonical penance. confession was for the most part restricted to monasteries. For a period in the late Middle Ages a balanced position seems to have been taken such that. wanting to argue that confession. As Foucault notes. holding hot irons) and trials by combat. penance was “abnormal and reserved only for the worst and most scandalous offences. as it would later become. and guilt or innocence was instead proven through practices such as ordeals (walking on hot coals.

economic. and had nothing to do with acts performed by the penitent. given that the reconciliation received on one’s deathbed was for all practical purposes equivalent to that received through penitential exercises and exomologesis.” “innate. Similarly. but also forestalled taking on the sexual.” “primal. As Mortimer argues. paving the way to private penance and to the rise of the parish priest. military and moral restrictions these involved until a time in life when these were all but irrelevant. deathbed penance was still public penance. and subsumed despite themselves into the narrative of an innate instinct to confess. she was required to fulfill the usual public penitential acts and to take on the usual life-long restrictions. Paul Galtier argues that private confession must always have existed in the Church. Several centuries of inconveniently non-confessional penance are in this way quickly skipped over by the universalizing or totalizing history of confession. Christians avoided not only the humiliating and arduous ascetic works of penance. which. in the case of a dying person any priest could grant absolution. Nevertheless. By thus calculating when to do penance such that it would entail the least hardship. when what has been discussed so far as the monastic form of confession left the monasteries and developed into an alternative form of penance for the laity.”112 tries to make sense of these centuries during which confession was not a crucial part of penance (or law) by saying that “the original need to confess was [being] prepared for and developed.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 47 an authority. Deathbed penance is significant because in this unique case absolution depended entirely on the power of priests to grant it.”113 As such he implies that a primal instinct can be put off for centuries or lived vicariously through one’s descendants and can do without a more immediate and simple outlet. manuals which listed and classified sins as well as punishments to be imposed for each specific sin. marks a shift from actually doing penance to simply receiving it. is an “original.114 Important in the development of this canonical penance which is so awkward for Berggren and Galtier.115 Another crucial shift in the history of penance began in the sixth century in Ireland. and if the penitent should happen to recover. even during these centuries where there is a lack of evidence to support such a claim. both of whom wish to see something like private confession as a universal practice at least since Augustine. Quite understandably. while canonical penance normally had to be performed by a bishop. Dying persons could receive absolution at the time of death without undergoing the usual severe penitential exercises of canonical penance. since such rigorous ascetic exercises could hardly be expected of a person on her deathbed. it quickly became common for most Christians who had sinned gravely enough to warrant penitential status to postpone penance until they were dying. as Tentler remarks. this accustomed medieval Christians to a belief in the priestly power of absolution. at this point in time.” and “natural need” or “instinct. and which also advised priests on how to go about . Moreover. an exception was made for the mortally ill.116 Priests in Ireland developed penitentiales.

and the endurance required in order to have completed them. or in reverse fashion. private penance reached the continent and was spread by Anglo-Saxon missionary monks. Unlike in the case of canonical penance. A priest would assign a penance of seven to ten years. or soul guide. and which gave her the consolation that she had been forgiven for her sins.”118 Mortimer. and required no lifelong disabilities such as abstinence on the part of the penitent or restriction from clerical offices. which enabled the confessional practices of today to emerge. “One knows he is forgiven because he is willing to perform the .119 Somewhat gentler than public penances. for mortal sins such as homicide. on the contrary. depending on whether the sinner was a cleric or a layperson.120 What is important to note is that so long as the levels of asceticism were extreme in both canonical penance and in the penitentiales. which practice over time produced a psychological habit or need. Rittgers. clerics as well as the laity could seek forgiveness and be reconciled. during three of which years the penitent lived off bread and water alone. it was a particular response to certain theological problems which led to the practice of confession. In the seventh century. Even sins such as lust which had not been acted upon drew penalties of forty days to six months of penance. and an entire year without wine and meat. following McNeill and Gamer. Confession today seems psychologically necessary. this new form of reconciliation took place between an individual and his priest. the penances required in the penitentiales were still extremely severe and thus comparable in their asceticism to canonical penance. on the other hand. that she would be unlikely to repeat her sinful behavior. the reconciliation offered by the penitentiales was repeatable: one could repent as often as necessary for both venial and mortal sins.117 Trying to explain why private penance would have originated in this particular place and time. allowing us to stress once again that confession was not an inevitable response to a pre-existing psychological need. suggests that “The Celts may have been influenced in their predilection toward private penance and private confession by the pre-Christian Celtic tradition of the anmchara. with up to half a year on bread and water. and adultery. As Tentler writes. it was the externally-manifested willingness to undertake these ascetic practices.48 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault receiving confessions and allotting “tariffs” for them. who would dispense spiritual advice on an individual basis. Unlike later Christian confession. which proved that the sinner had truly repented. and yet this feeling of necessity may never have developed if medieval theologians had not decided that Saint Ambrose was wrong. perjury. The decision made in the seventh century that confessions could be repeated as often as necessary is the sort of historical accident of which Foucault speaks. Moreover. and that penance could be repeated after all. which was crucial for the development of confession into the habit which it has long since become today. discusses the sorts of theological problems which led to the practice of confession. which must have contributed to the ultimate triumph of the penitentiales over canonical penance.

and so it could be of some concern to know the exact nature of an emotion one was feeling. If one confesses annually. and few priests found that they could endorse the harsh penalties recommended in the penitentiales in practice.”121 As time went on.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 49 overwhelming penitential exercises demanded by the church. and the seriousness of her sin. To pick up on Foucault’s concern with shifting forms of truth. Christians were less willing to undergo years of hardship. something of which one could never be entirely sure and which could always change. The consolation of this system lies in its difficulty. but also for determining whether or not she had sinned at all. in the later Middle Ages the experience of genuine sorrow or contrition rather than the willingness to undergo hardship was said to guarantee forgiveness. it came to be agreed that penances allotted by priests were arbitrary and to be left up to the individual cleric’s discretion. her degrees of sorrow and their quality and sincerity. pilgrimages. As such. was elusive. a somewhat less admirable form of contrition was a repugnance for the sins in question. a truth which one had to seek again and again and of which one could never be certain. This is an important shift from a form of penance which was by and large concerned with externally manifested displays of renunciation and punishment to a form of penance in which it is fi rst and foremost a question of an individual’s interior state. and the lowest form of all was a utilitarian regret arising out of fear of damnation and desire for reconciliation. moreover. and came to be something rather mysterious which one sought to know within oneself and which. fasting and abstinence. thus requiring ongoing examination. and the extreme forms of asceticism once required were soon replaced by relatively facile undertakings such as prayers. the intentions and interior states of the penitent were important not only for determining her state of contrition. Bernasconi observes that early Christian confession. like ancient practices of self-examination. In response to these lighter penalties. It was debated whether the lower forms of contrition were sufficient for receiving forgiveness. These lists of sins with their tariffs had become all but irrelevant even before the thirteenth century when confession became obligatory annually for all Christians. one cannot receive penalties each year which endure for many years. concerned itself with acts and not . truth in penance ceased to be something which one knew in an unproblematic way but had to manifest in public. however. As Bernasconi notes.”122 Different forms of contrition were distinguished between: the highest form of contrition was the genuine sorrow experienced for one’s sins which arose from a love of God. and certainly could not be used after 1215 when not only the most zealous of Christians but all Christians were bound to confess on a regular basis. and payments for masses. Aquinas notes that it is difficult to know the reasons for one’s sorrow and thus if they are pure “because a man cannot easily measure his own emotions. without accumulating a surplus of penance too difficult to fulfi ll.

Perhaps the sacrament of penance contributed to bringing that change about.”127 According to W. “the entire history of penance until the late twentieth century has been a matter of ‘moving indoors. Paradoxically. “the penance was more severe if a dog happened to lap up the vomit. was to have such extraordinary historical consequences—yet another problem arose for the Church: if forgiveness has primarily to do with a penitent’s interior state. The confessional box corresponds at an architectural level to that change and allowed penitent and priest to reenact conscience’s own internal dialogue with itself. this moving indoors included a transition towards an interior space of the soul.’”128 While Meyers is writing of the increased privatization of confession. As Bernasconi goes on to argue: “to say that the sacrament of penance was symptomatic of this change in human self-understanding is perhaps not to say enough. dark confessional box in which confessions from the sixteenth century onwards were heard reflected this model of the self. the small. It can be argued that later Christian confession produced Lockean interiority. its introduction: reflected a transformation in the understanding of confession which was itself symptomatic of a transformation in human self-understanding. In one example that Bernasconi provides. a “shift from a morality of laws to a morality of intentions. vomiting the host was a sin even if it occurred due to infi rmity.50 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault with intentions to the extent that entirely involuntary acts could require penance. albeit a conscience informed by that law. laws.”124 What these examples indicate is. this meant that confessors should not inform a penitent that her acts were transgressive if they believed that she would not repent and change her ways as a result. Bernasconi shows that later Christian confession was preoccupied with intentions to the extent that “an innocent act committed in the belief that it was a mortal sin was indeed a mortal sin. if Bernasconi is correct. in contrast to Locke’s account of the self as a private. David Meyers.” whereas a transgressive act was nevertheless not a sin if the penitent did not know it was a sin. the confessional box became mandatory for hearing confessions.”125 Jumping ahead a few centuries. for to do so would be “equivalent to providing the penitent with new occasions for sin. Bernasconi suggests that when. in Bernasconi’s words. Sin was becoming less a matter of submission to God’s law and more a question of the sinner’s relation to his or her own conscience. rather than on acts. it can apparently take place . landmarks of which were the inventions of private penance and of the confessional box. punishment and satisfaction—which. and that space had fi rst to be invented. in the sixteenth century. dark room.”123 In absolute contrast.126 Phillip Cary suggests that we imagine Augustine’s conception of the inner self as a palace courtyard without a roof. Indeed. following Bernasconi. following Bernasconi. and. With the new emphasis on intentions and introspection upon degrees of contrition.

and. as followers of Aquinas would have it. this time with. parishioners were obliged to confess only to their own confessor or parish priest. It was unclear whether the priest merely spoke to the penitent about God’s forgiveness. therefore. on the other hand. Peter Lombard can be situated somewhere between the two camps. but that the intervention of a priest is also highly recommended. permanent forms of punishment such as lifelong abstinence found in canonical penance had long since . theologians such as Abelard. or risk excommunication. or for confession at all for that matter. Alain de Lille. also upon pain of excommunication.129 Once more a theological debate ensued. was required and sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. as the followers of Duns Scotus believed. For Duns. Yet this still placed too much of the burden of forgiveness on contrition. with no need for the intervention of priests.130 Even after the decree of 1215 there was debate as to the exact nature of the priest’s power of absolution. Some theologians argued that the priest’s role was also one of augmenting the confessant’s prayers and sorrow such that enough contrition was experienced between the two of them to justify forgiveness. in which case the priest was simply an intermediary between God and the penitent. drunk. and were thus absolutely required. even if accompanied only by contrition of the lowest sort.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 51 between the penitent herself and God. whereas theologians following Aquinas and Duns Scotus wanted to transform this burden into the power of priests such that their words of forgiveness were all that was required. on the one hand. or joking when they received absolution remained. and Gratian viewing penance as principally a question of sorrow which could be judged within an individual’s soul by God alone. or unless they were on the point of death and could not access their parish priest. wanting to uphold that an internal state of sincere contrition is necessary on the part of the penitent. Hugh of Saint Victor. or whether the priest actually had the power to forgive and to grant absolution himself.131 individual contrition came to be somewhat less emphasized and the power of the priests became more fi rmly entrenched: Duns Scotus allows even calculated contrition to be adequate for forgiveness. and in the famous decree of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 every Christian was commanded to confess to her priest at least once a year. In the end the Church sided with the position which upheld and justified its powers to inform itself of and to survey the levels of heresy within its flock. confession to a priest.132 By the late Middle Ages. lying. While the question of confessants who dissembled their contrition remained problematic. normally at Lent. Emphasizing the desire to know and thus to control the laity involved in this legislation. theologians such as Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas arguing that the intervention of priests was necessary to ensure the forgiveness of penitents. only saints experience perfect sorrow and can thus dispense with confession: for everyone else. and a minimum requirement that confessants not be asleep. unless they had permission from their confessor to confess to another cleric.

as Bernasconi highlights.”137 As he notes. In short. In this box. the insistence on absolute contrition was sacrificed to the goal of augmenting the power of priests. . however. Why how. The habit of confession was not easily acquired. Similarly. While in canonical confession only the gravest of sins required entering into the order of penitents. ANXIETY. some of which were provided in several versions to cater to differing levels of education among priests.133 At the same time.138 Priests. but it was not an interiority destined to be left to the introspection of individual penitents.52 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault been transformed into the long-term asceticism of penitentiales and fi nally into light and repetitive penances such as prayers and monetary offerings. Also noteworthy.”136 SURPRISE. either by laymen or by clerics.134 and in which “aggravating circumstances” (“Who. for the priest. Le Goff notes. slowly but surely. within this box. what penance to impose for those avowals of sin that were neither enormous nor extraordinary but generally modest and routine—all these were questions that needed to be answered. and for centuries many Christians. and where. by what helpe and by whose. what to confess and what to ask. and when. an interiority was developed outside of the monasteries. and. the chronicle of Christian penance is one in which forgiveness became easy so that confession could become mandatory. in which confessions had to be “complete” to have any value. soon to be a prolific genre.”139 and confession manuals. Jacques Le Goff calls the decree of 1215 “one of the greatest events of medieval history. self-governance increasingly gives way to discipline. others ordered alphabetically and with extensive indexes for easy referencing and practical use. once posited. AND RESISTANCE In The Birth of Purgatory. ] came as a considerable surprise in the fi rst half of the thirteenth century. and yet interiority and interest in psychic states. significantly. were “embarrassed and in some cases even frightened by their new responsibilities. particularly if they were not well educated. were nevertheless honed through the sorts of confessions required of Christians by canon law. Indeed. . had to be furnished to guide them. this ‘move indoors’ is figured by the construction of a confessional box which mirrors the modern conception of the soul. what. with the transformation from public penance to inner contrition. This decision [ . the confessant met her priest. public displays of truth had been replaced by introspection on inner sorrow and then into repetitions of formulaic regrets in the presence of priests. doe many things disclose” as well as “How many”135) needed to be accounted for. and in which “motives are also important. How to confess and how to hear confession. however .

David Meyers calls the centuries of “active resistance” to confession which occurred on the part of the laity and some parish priests. which many canon lawyers refused to endorse because there was no biblical source for it. now all Christians were to confess. and would do so at least one time a year. Counter-Reformation theology would explicitly claim that confession had been instituted by Christ himself. let alone that it be annual and so forth.142 It is important to note the “surprise” and general confusion with which Le Goff describes this command to confess. perhaps enormously. making it problematic to suggest that it was dealt out by priests. however. More unlikely biblical passages were also interpreted as endorsing confession. As Meyers observes. “Where are you?” was interpreted as urging Adam to confess. In fact. and pray for one another. This last minute practice of confession meant that so many people flocked to the church to confess on Palm Sunday. “Confess.” which does not specify that confession needs to be made to a priest. and moreover the majority waited until the very last moment of the Lenten period to confess. such as Christ’s command that Lazarus be unbound by the disciples from his cloths and bandages (John.”144 Even more significantly. this meant that even if the priest worked for twelve hours straight. in the words of one priest. while urged to confess more than once a year. Most priests in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance would have said that confession was prescribed in the New Testament. that you may be saved. which certain medieval theologians interpreted as a command that priests unbind penitents from their sins by receiving their confessions. and even God’s question to Adam.” which does not say that one needs to confess to them. and Easter Sunday that the priest would have to hear as many as three hundred confessions on each of these days. as well as what W. the closest one can come to fi nding a biblical command to confess in the New Testament is the passage from Luke 17:14. he would have to hear twenty-five confessions . foreseeing the naturalization of confession in modern thought. 11:44).Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 53 devote. your sins to one another. therefore. “the populace shrinks from specific enumeration of sins out of pure stubbornness. and when the sacrament of confession was under attack during the Reformation.143 In many cases parishioners would submit to an annual confession but.141 Those theologians who recognized that these searches for biblical sources for the command to confess were farfetched sought instead to ground confession in natural law. and thus the volume of confessions which priests would have had to deal with increased. as being met in 1215. despite frequent admonishments on the part of their priests to come earlier. Holy Thursday. and to confess in such detail. and moreover because forgiveness had already been won by Christ’s sacrifice. most laypeople stuck to the bare minimum of once annually. “Go show yourselves to the priests.140 as did the frequency with which clergy themselves had to confess to their superiors. and James 5:16. would at most have sought penance once in their lifetime. Significant was the theological anxiety around the decree of 1215.

and priests again gave in to their parishioners and performed general rather than individual absolutions. A symbolic act requiring submission to clerical and ecclesiastical authority as well as a fee. and in some cases the priest would resort to the forbidden practice of hearing confessions in his private quarters or in another secluded place. Meyers suggests. confession could have a decidedly coercive character. as . a thorough and complete confession was impossible. Priests were part of the community. seducing women during confession or repeating secrets confessed to them after a few drinks at the inn. In other cases. confession was experienced as something invasive. particularly when one had done nothing extraordinary. the particular stipulation that confession should be made to one’s own parish priest was also very much resisted by the laity.151 Far from being “pastoral care” or a sort of pre-modern psychotherapy. “undisciplined” parishioners would crowd in on the penitent.146 Sometimes things were so noisy that the priest literally could not hear the confessions. In Confession and Resistance. educated lay people preferred to confess to a monk rather than to their uneducated parish priest. but that it was impossible to keep them private: as an unruly crowd of penitents fi lled the church. Moreover.147 As Meyers writes: A possible reason for refusing to confess specifics was resentment [ . This. all these phenomena of confusion and resistance.54 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault an hour and could give less than two and a half minutes per penitent. ranging from the most chaotic to the most organized. to be evaded if possible. In these assembly-line conditions. blatantly eavesdropping and even interrupting the confession. Meyers notes parishes where the laypeople refused to confess at all. so rare and so brief renders such a reading implausible. Little considers a more organized form of resistance to confession in the heretical Christian community of the Wycliffites.145 A consequence of these conditions under which the majority of laypeople confessed was that confessions were not only extremely short. for most penitents.”150 Together. and there was a degree of shame and risk in confessing to a person one knew. indicates that confession. . and the “crisis of self-defi nition that the Wycliffite heresy reflected and generated. In still other cases. was not experienced as a normal requirement of subjects nor as a welcome and long-awaited outlet to an innate psychological need. Foucault urges us to imagine “how exorbitant”152 this decree of Lateran IV must have seemed and. Meyers points out that the fact that confession was. ] the peasantry figured prominently among the defiant.148 As Alexander Murray demonstrates. is just what the laypeople intended.149 One reason for this resistance was that some parish priests were known to be corrupt. Katherine C. despite frequent attempts on the part of twentieth-century authors to compare medieval auricular confession to modern forms of therapy. . and the result was that some priests simply gave up and would absolve the crowd en masse.

for the most part penitents confessed kneeling at the feet of their parish priest or. as Le Goff writes. and refusal of this oath to confess was taken as proof of heresy.”155 Although examination of interior states of contrition never disappeared. the power of absolution is fi rmly attributed to the priest and not primarily to the contrition in an individual’s soul and the direct intervention of God. was also sufficient to this end. at the feet of their spiritual advisor. . to take on this strange habit.154 In the legislation of Lateran IV. confession was a “habit [. Until the introduction of the confessional box in the sixteenth century. in principle.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 55 seen. and none more rigorously than the clergy themselves. these persons could then be better probed during their own confessions. Not long before. in the monastery. in 1199. ] not easily acquired. all Christians were. Priests who had formerly said “May God forgive you” now said “I absolve you. in the religious sphere. therefore. it is significant that it simultaneously forbade priests from participating in trials by combat and ordeal. If the Fourth Lateran Council required the faithful to make confessions. confessions were required and could be extracted through torture. Simultaneously. as of 1215 and on pain of excommunication. moreover. duels. Beyond its impact on religious life. also identify other persons involved in their confession. ordeals). in which confessions were required for most convictions. confessions were required and extracted on pain of excommunication. What these examples indicate is that. Lateran IV thus contributed to the centrality of . and silence justified punishment and an assumption of guilt. . argues that as late as the seventeenth century the Church continued to encounter resistance at the level of the very bodies of the ordained in the phenomenon of possession. PASTORAL POWER AND THE BIRTH OF SCRUPULOUSNESS Despite these instances of resistance.156 Since clerical presence was mandatory at these events of divine intervention. and could be extracted through torture. enabling the monitoring of sinners. contributing instead to the promotion of schools of law modeled after the recently rediscovered Roman canon law.” one which could send the body into fits and convulsions and which could result in chaos and rebellion in the church. or was taken as a confession such that in either case one had confessed.153 Christians thus admitted their sins to someone who knew them and could remember their previous confessions and who could. in which suspects being interrogated were required to take an oath to answer all questions fully. . regular confession to a priest was rendered necessary for the forgiveness of sins and. if done well. the decree all but abolished the Teutonic model of legal adjudication in Christendom (oaths.157 In the secular and ecclesiastical courts of Lateran IV Europe. the fi rst inquisitional tribunals had been instituted by Pope Innocent III.

Lea is scandalized by. Jean Gerson’s On the Confession of Masturbation is an example of a late medieval confessional manual which demonstrates both the focus on self-affecting sexual sins and the extreme “audacity” and “guile” which Tentler describes. as opposed to self-affecting sins such as masturbation. judging from the incredulity with which deniers of masturbation were instructed to be met. and in Tentler’s words “marvelous. however more common and indeed universal (among males) a sin it was assumed to be.158 The interrogation of penitents in religious life. about ten or twelve years old. confession was also obsessively concerned with sex.”159 As Foucault observes in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. so that it will appear that what has been asked about is not dishonourable or something to be kept quiet. Gerson tells the priest to insist: “Friend. or abducting and raping virgins and wives. This was to change after 1400. was deemed an even more serious sin than raping a nun. however. such that if penitents did not volunteer to discuss their sexuality.162 According to Peter Briller. the information was extracted from them by priests. Gerson advises the priest to ask the man: “Friend.”161 Jacqueline Murray demonstrates that the focus on sex in the confessional applied particularly to female penitents: women are mentioned in confession manuals almost exclusively with respect to sexual sins. although confession manuals always had a great deal to say about sexual sins. and as Henry C. wasn’t that thing indecent? What did you do. at which point all sexual sins. the priest is told to continue to ask him leading questions: ‘Friend. incest. which. whereas discussions of other sins assume male penitents. as will be seen below. your rod or virile member ever stood erect?” Should the penitent deny this memory. Clerics are told in this manual to insist that (male) penitents admit to the sin of masturbation. therefore.163 For this reason confession manuals were preoccupied with sexual sins such as adultery and incest. could be aggressive.160 Tentler also remarks this trend in confession. so that it wouldn’t stand erect?” and advises the priest “let this be said with a tranquil visage. didn’t you touch or rub your member the way boys usually do?’ If he entirely denies that he ever held it or rubbed it in that state . confession in law and religion came of age together and have not been disentangled since.” “audacious. prior to 1400 there was a greater focus in confession manuals on social sins or sins that affected others.” Presuming the confessant is not deceived by the priest’s cavalier attitude and still refuses to admit to having masturbated. do you remember when you were young. as in early modern courts of law.56 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault confession in law as we know it today. noting that sexual interrogations held “a special place in medieval religion. took on a greater focus. but rather as a remedy against the alleged awkwardness of the aforementioned erection. As Peter Brooks and Foucault both observe.” and marked by “guile. including self-affecting ones.

” But even once the penitent has admitted his sin. and persists until the confessant admits to the sin. I well believe it”—only to then backtrack and condemn the act as sinful and shameful after all. however. calling him “friend” and pretending that masturbation is neither sinful nor shameful in order to make the penitent admit to it. if a penitent suspected he had withheld some information from his confession. the priest is not to be satisfied. clearly most laypeople during the Middle Ages would never or only very rarely have been submitted to such intense confessional interrogations as we fi nd described in manuals such as Gerson’s.166 It . if a confession was willfully “incomplete. I well believe it. and so. they ran the risk of teaching sinful behaviors to penitents who had not previously been aware of the full range of sexual possibilities available to them. that it was worth teaching a few young penitents how to masturbate in order to save the greater number who were already masturbating without confessing to it. The guile of such confessors foreshadows the good cop/bad cop interrogations that we know today. he had to repeat the entire confession until it was “complete. and that he address the confessant with a disarming affection. that he is before God. that it is most serious to lie in confession. saying: ‘Friend. for instance. They deduced. in which the priest plays both parts. The priest is thus not to accept willingly the answers of the penitent. and only once he fi nally assented to what he was expected to say was there “evidence” that he had sinned. at which point there was no time for anything approaching the scenario which Gerson describes.” the entire confession was annulled. and so forth with other sins. insinuating that he can relate to the penitent’s acts—“Friend.” the inquiry was not fi nished. so long as the penitent said “no. none of one’s other sins were forgiven. but for how long? An hour? A half hour? And for so long that the member was no longer erect?’ And let this be uttered as if the confessor did not think this unusual or sinful. and the like. and with such leading questions. Particularly remarkable are the instructions that the priest feign a certain casualness. and is to ask for further details. it was seen that most people waited until the last days of Lent to confess. Due to the forms of resistance to confession described above. then there is evidence that he has truly committed the sin of masturbation.165 As in a police interrogation or a torture chamber. If the penitent answers that he did so.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 57 it is not possible to proceed further except in expressing amazement and saying that it is not credible: exhorting him to remember his salvation. in which the confessor seems to have all the time in the world. In practice.164 Medieval theologians recognized that by inquiring in such suggestive detail.

early medieval penance was only for grave sins. For those such as the ordained and the scrupulous who did undergo frequent and rigorous confessional examination.168 Meyers thus cautions against seeing confession manuals as a reflection of what most medieval subjects would have undergone. According to Meyers’s study. medieval confessors might inquire into an overwhelming number of possibilities of sin. extracting detailed self-scrutiny on the part of confessants as to their possible trespasses. pregnant women in particular confessed often. “including the gifts. doctrines. the obligation to confess in circumstances such as Gerson describes for even the most routine and private of sins such as masturbation came to cause anxiety. and women in cloisters who confessed the most often of all. frequent (monthly or weekly) confession did not become common until the late seventeenth century. but now the most mundane of sins could be given excruciating attention. As seen. and laws one can sin against. and so there was at least one category of confessants who confessed not too rarely. not too hard.” into which confessors would inquire. confession manuals attest to a problem of overly-scrupulous laypeople who plagued their confessors with an insatiable need to confess. In general. but too often. as did the sense of sinfulness which confessional morality inculcated in devote late medieval and early modern subjects. by which point the scrutiny undergone was nothing like that described by the medieval manuals. Among women. If they had the leisure. women engaged in auricular confession more often than men during the Middle Ages (and to this day).”169 As such. counsels. and argues that for the majority of medieval Christians confession was “too easy. Tentler provides lists of the various categories of sin. One example is: Ten Commandments Seven Deadly Sins Twelve Articles of Faith Five Senses Eight Beatitudes Six or Seven Corporal Works of Mercy Six or Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy Four or Five Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance Six Sins Against the Holy Spirit Four Cardinal Virtues . faculties.58 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault was only the most devote who submitted to more regular confession outside of the Lenten period and who would have experienced such intense scrutiny as we fi nd routinely described in confession manuals. Meyers surmises that most medieval Christians would not have developed a great deal of spiritual anxiety over confession. virtues. however. while among the ordained it was monks who confessed more often than priests.167 and the clergy confessed more often than laypeople.170 As shall be seen below.

implanting new fantasies in the minds of confessants. producing what Meyers refers to as “terrorized consciences. Calvin decried confession as “bind[ing] consciences in snares. word. there were further lists and categorizations and hierarchies of sinfulness.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 59 Three Theological Virtues Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit171 As is clear. and in each one of these sub-categories it was possible to sin in deed.”173 while Luther. or thought. or that he had confessed thoroughly enough. which desires were new sources of anxiety over one’s sins. each of these categories subdivided into between three and twelve more ways to sin. .” to which the testaments of reformers such as Luther. one also had to search one’s memory and one’s soul in order to distinguish between having experienced temptation and having had sinful thoughts. and Zwingli attest. who felt he could never be sure that he had experienced true sorrow. as Counter-Reformation doctrine itself came to acknowledge. So for instance sexual sins. ] has been transformed into the most oppressive despotism. Moreover. . being confronted and questioned regularly on these and other lists of sins is judged by Tentler to have been an “alarming” and “unsettling” experience causing anxiety and even despair. would write that “The promise of penance [ .”174 Sexual interrogations in particular would create and fan the flames of erotic desire. the latter meaning that one had prolonged the delectation of a temptation and taken pleasure in this prolongation rather than dismissing it immediately from one’s mind. were ranked in ascending order of gravity in lists such as: Unchaste kiss Unchaste touch Fornication Debauchery Simple Adultery Double Adultery Voluntary sacrilege Rape or Abduction of a virgin Rape or Abduction of a wife Rape or Abduction of a nun Incest Masturbation Improper manner Improper organ Sodomy Bestiality172 For those undergoing rigorous penitential practices. or the varieties of the Deadly Sin of Lust. Calvin. Within any given category. .

and in this way confession slowly became a self-perpetuating and viciously circular need.60 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault This anxiety in turn sought relief in the confessional practice which was its cause. exhausted. and so a naturalized habit for certain Christian subjects. confession manuals soon reflect the problem of repeated and excessivelydetailed confessions. and. the phenomenon of frequent confessions on the part of brooding monks and scrupulous laypeople could became burdensome to confessors. . they soon complained that they had to attend to hypochondriacs. and of priests overworked. four new circumstances were introduced which required immediate confession: one should confess outside of the Lenten period if threatened by a serious illness. as seen above. and one could die suddenly with unconfessed sins. For some.177 While these religious men seem to have been commended for the frequency with which they confessed and the piety of which this was considered to be indicative. confessors were to adopt a disarmingly friendly manner in .180 Although. since such meticulous penitents were accused of not having enough faith in the mercy of God. of fabricated confessions manufactured by overlyanxious minds. became a new sin. the Dominican Henri Lacordaire said he could not even estimate how many times he had confessed because he did so so often. Godesalc Rosemondt and Jacobus de Clusa argue for confessing four to seven times annually176 while the Jesuit Louis Lallement recommended daily confession. and exasperated by too many confessions. such that Johannes von Dambach complained that “a scrupulous man [ . ] well might need to keep a confessor in his purse.”178 If it was a common trope for confessors to compare themselves to physicians. if one worried that one would not have access to a confessor during Lent.179 Matthew of Cracow is particularly harsh with respect to persons guilty of scrupulousness because he suspects that they over-confess in order to make the priest admire them for their piety. although only an annual confession at Lent was officially compulsory.” or excessive self-examination and confession. At the same time. despite the prohibitive fact that confessants had to pay alms in order to confess. penitents were urged to confess far more frequently. particularly because sins could be forgotten if not confessed quickly. a sin that one might (scrupulously) need to confess to. “Scrupulousness. if one was going to receive the eucharist. . or before any other sacrament or religious act. or enough humility to submit to Him without these constant confessional interventions.175 This last reason for additional confessions is particularly open-ended and could result in very frequent confessions indeed. confession had became an internalized desire to the extent that. and finally and most vaguely. one was to confess more frequently if dictated to do so by one’s conscience. Contributing to the trend of more frequent confession. be baptized. surpassing even Lallement. and thus a longing. Theologians argued that the obligatory Easter-time confession should not prevent people from confessing at other times of the year.

men of high rank. if the aim of the Church was to know the truth about its flock. or into regular conversations. while the Church wanted to learn about the sinful desires of its flock in order to extinguish them. and prettified. do not make yourself available to them for other conversations. “And to those who want to confess too often. so that he would look at them less. such that confessors needed to be warned to send away female confessants who arrived with their “hair curled. while male confessants could kneel directly facing the priest. Antoninus of Florence’s advice to clerics to make scrupulous penitents wait last in line to confess implies a degree of annoyance with such confessants who came too often. the truth-producing method which it had devised could result in fabricated confessions designed to solicit the approval of priests. complex. abandoned to the torments which Christianity’s teachings had implanted in his soul. Indeed. As is apparent. seeking their confessor’s approval and admiration and thus being willing to fabricate confessions in order to be loved. Similarly. restricted to narrow time slots and treated brusquely by his priest. and always use not soft but harsh and severe words with them. this may have resulted in a sort of transference love such that priests had to deal with the problem of confessants who attempted through their confessions to strengthen this friendly relation. and not only on that of their female confessants. First.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 61 order to conduct their interrogations. only to fi nd himself henceforth made to wait last in line to relieve his conscience.183 This suggests an awareness of the need to control heterosexual desire on the priest’s part. assign a certain time outside of which you will not hear them. untruths in which penitents may or may not have believed themselves. and always in excess of the intentions of those who try to wield it. He suggests that a confessor “receive fi rst and most willingly” those who come rarely.”182 Young female confessants were also instructed to kneel at their priest’s side. if confession was adopted by the Church in order to give disciplinary power to the clergy over the laity. and penance took on psychic forms unanticipated by either the Church or the laity. The stipulation that the priest not make himself available to the scrupulous confessant “for other conversations” also suggests that confessional speech had spilled over into discourse produced outside the sacrament itself. but is reciprocal. things had gotten out of hand. the Church did not want to implant this much anxiety in the souls of its faithful: clearly. although penitents had initially met the demand to confess with reluctance. it had often produced new desires. and to higher church officials over more lowly monks and priests who confessed to . and those to whom confession will be of most use.”181 Perhaps this scrupulous penitent was fi rst addressed as “friend” and made to feel at ease while simultaneously inculcated with an anxiety-causing sense of his own sinfulness. The phenomenon of scrupulousness shows in a Foucaultian manner that power is never something possessed and exerted over another person or group of persons unilaterally. including desires for priests. made up. strangers.

among its own clergy and frequently in the persons of the confessors with whom the possessed women appeared to be demonically captivated. by ridding itself of the tenacious problem of possessed women by handing them over to those other confessors. which at fi rst took familiar recourse to witchhunting. which in its extreme forms involved informing penitents of an overwhelming number of manners in which they could sin. Possession was among the unanticipated effects of confession which. psychiatrists. and attempted to minimize the damage by developing what Foucault calls “anti-convulsives. Like the guard in the panopticon described by Foucault in Discipline and Punish. a century and a half later. is the victim of the “bind[ing of] consciences in snares” to a greater degree than laypersons.” including the de-eroticization of confession. both the priest who surveys his flock and the high church official who surveys the ordained internalize the logic of surveillance and come to permanently self-monitor. Like Kafka’s Joseph K. this time hunting witches and warlocks in its own midst. including some of the most high-ranking officials and authors of confession manuals. implanted desire. Much as in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Foucault describes the bourgeoisie as the group which was the most dominated and the first to be dominated by its own bourgeois sexual ethics. affected the clergy far more than the laypersons it was most obviously meant to control: the most scrupulous of confessants were to be found among the clergy themselves. As a form of involuntary resistance to confession. power will produce its own resistance. spending excessive and unanticipated amounts of their lives listening to confessions. and fi nally. as with scrupulousness. these same church officials were stubbornly resisted by some of their parishioners. This production of anxious subjects was combined with exhortations that they should confess more often than was strictly required. thus medicalizing what had at fi rst been more accurately identified as a religious problem. the discipline and self-discipline of confession. occurred most acutely in the midst of the ordained as dramas unfolding primarily between nuns and their confessor-priests. like the prison guard. while they were besieged and forced to listen to more confessions than they had ever desired on the parts of others. possession was a source of anxiety for the Church. so also the clergy was dominated first and most thoroughly by the confessional subjectivity which it was inculcating in its flock for purposes of control. The priest. the increased discretion of the speech acts which occurred in the confessional. Second. desire and despair which accompanied it. who is insistently told that he is . The phenomenon of possession also illustrates the ways in which. compulsory confession.. The point to be highlighted is that whether confessants were victimized or relieved by the persons hearing their confessions. as Foucault observes. and with promises that such a practice would provide them with relief. as well as the guilt. As such the Church had to sacrifice its own.62 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault them. anxiety. guilt and a habit of anxious and ever-inconclusive introspection in certain late medieval and early modern subjects.

brought so many souls to despair. Luther would try to abolish the habit of endless introspection. ] confessed. through which you have bewildered the consciences of all the world.” and so that relief. and also insisted that confessions only deal with fully-willed sins such as murder and adultery. called the practice carnificina. and degraded and oppressed all mankind’s faith in Christ. as in the case of possessed women. outdoing her confessors in her zeal to confess. “butchery. and to sins they had never committed—the confessing subject eventually acquiesces to her guilt and even seeks out her own confession. endangering their confessors with their zeal. . clerics became alarmed by the confessional subjects which they had made.”184 Confession presents itself as a source of relief for these subjects whose feeling of guilt the confessional has itself produced. or acts which did not require soul-searching to know whether they had been committed. or even. Here Luther compares confession to rape.”186 Calvin. . in Gerson’s words. one of the most important summas for confessors of late medieval Christianity. and would thus often confess to sins of which the inquisitors never suspected them. eventually considers writing a meticulously detailed description of his entire life. but confessional subjects can never feel “‘sufficiently’ [ . In the same year he would write The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. REFORMATION AND COUNTERREFORMATION CONFESSION In December of 1520 Martin Luther would publicly burn the Angelica.Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 63 guilty despite the fact that the exact nature of his guilt remains elusive to him—or as in the Spanish Inquisition during which suspects were simply asked “do you confess?” without knowing the nature of the accusations against them. As the practice of confession spread. but Luther would allow confessions to continue in reformed ways: he abolished clerical abuses such as receiving money for confessions and for the masses which were often required as penances. Also deeming intentions irrelevant. Joseph K. despite the fact that no one has asked for such an account. to be sought after again through further confessions. even more hostile to confession than Luther. accusing the Pope of being an Antichrist who “breaks open the bridal chamber of Christ and makes all Christian souls into whores. while in the following year he would pen On Confession: Whither the Pope has Power to Command It. remains temporary and always elusive. attempting .”187 and rejected it entirely. and a certain pleasure. and which they had become—subjects who.”185 Luther calls Lateran IV “the greatest plague on earth. continually felt that “they have been ‘properly’ but not ‘sufficiently’ contrite and confessed (indeed as far as we can see it is impossible for them to be sufficiently contrite for their sins). in which he critiqued the corrupt practice of Catholic confession. and becomes so preoccupied with the thought of this exhaustive confession that he cannot work.


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault

to diminish the unhealthy inwardness which Catholicism had cultivated. Also crucially, for Luther priests had no power to absolve the penitent, but only to tell her that God had already forgiven her if she believed in His forgiveness, and thus the disciplinary role of clerics was diluted while the inculcation of scrupulousness was dissipated. For Luther confessions were non-compulsory and they were to be kept short. These succinct confessions were to be general, they were to admit that one was, like everyone else, sinful, but were not to reflect excessively on the individual self or her sins. Finally, Lutheran confession was to be primarily preoccupied with an examination of faith rather than of conscience, or was to be used as an opportunity for instruction in basic theology.188 The Counter-Reformation Catholic Church was quick to respond to these heretical claims which endangered its will to know. On the one hand, it would clean up the sacrament from the clerical abuses for which it had become notorious, and would, in Foucault’s words, “neutralize” the language of the on-going sexual interrogations which it could not abandon. On the other hand, despite these concessions to Reformation critiques, the Council of Trent would only reaffi rm and bolster the importance of confession in the salvation of souls. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests, Issued by Order of Pius V puts it, “Justly then do the Holy Fathers proclaim, that by the keys of the Church, the gate of heaven is thrown open.”189 According to Beggren, confessional practices would continue to “spr[i]ng up” in Protestant countries and parishes despite attempts to curtail them, from which he once more deduces the primacy of the confessional need. 190 However, according to Meyers’ study of confession in Germany during this period, even parishes which remained Catholic saw high levels of resistance to confession at this time, which he attributes to the Protestant influence. In these Catholic communities “parishioners simply refused to confess specifics,” and preferred general confession to private confession. For instance, “The parish of Aufkirchen contained one thousand communicants, all Catholic and diligent in worship, yet their priests could not bring them to enumerate sins in penance.”191 According to Rittgers, within the Protestant parishes where laypeople had a choice between general absolution and Luther’s reformed version of private confession, most people preferred the former.192 This suggests, again, and contrary to Beggren’s argument, that far from confession being an innate need, even after several centuries of obligatory confession there was still no real desire on the part of most people to confess. If these people could be absolved without confessing, this was the option which they chose. In contrast to most laypeople, however, Luther himself, the once-scrupulous monk, found that an uncorrupt form of confession was consoling; this indicates again that it is the discipliners who were ultimately the most disciplined by the practice of confession. From such subjects as Luther we might infer the difficulty of extinguishing originally Catholic forms

Confession from Antiquity to the Counter-Reformation 65 of confession once these had been successfully inscribed onto the soul, rather than inferring, with Beggren, the innateness of this compulsion. For such confessing subjects, even the loss of faith in God and in religion, and hence the original or historical source for their guilt and their desire, did not always remove the longing to confess. One such case is the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century German Romantic Clemens Brentano, who wrote to a friend: “When I was still a small boy and pious, and went to confession, I always felt a deep, pleasurable fear before entering the confessional. Though the passing of time was to deprive me of my faith, it could never take from me my need to confess.”193 Brentano would satisfy his desire to confess for a time in his relationships with friends, but eventually these did not suffice, or perhaps he had exhausted the tolerance of his resources, and thus his “craving for confession” eventually led him back to the Roman Catholic Church.194 Later in the nineteenth century, however, subjects such as Brentano would have venues for confession available to them other than religion, for instance the writing of confessional literature, or the sexual and psychological examinations of doctors which, as Foucault describes in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality, were quickly superseding those of priests. A century later, presented with options such as psychotherapy, few subjects would feel compelled to return to the Catholic Church to fulfi ll their confessional desires. The following chapter will consider this modern confessional subject, the product of the genealogy of confession examined thus far.


Confession and Modern Subjectivity

Confession is not the end of the game. You’ll go on confessing for the rest of your life. —Ladelle McWhorter, Bodies and Pleasures1

In the fi rst part of this chapter I will continue discussing the history of confession, starting where the previous chapter left off, or with the beginning of the modern era, the period which concerns Foucault in his critique of confession in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Once more I will follow Foucault quite far in my discussion of modern confessional practices, and yet I also wish to problematize aspects of his analysis and to consider features of confession which he does not examine. In particular, while Foucault situates confession in the history of technologies for producing truth, the second and third sections of this chapter will draw on the writings of Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, and Peter Brooks in order to examine the close relation between confession and untruth, and the phenomenon of false confessions, particularly in the realm of law. Moreover, while Foucault and much of this chapter will have focused on the problematic pleasures of confession, the fi nal section of this chapter will consider its displeasures.


Secularization and Sexualization
Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: An Introduction discusses confession primarily from the Council of Trent onwards, or beginning with the Counter-Reformation’s response to Reformation critiques of confession. The response of the Catholic Church, as noted in the previous chapter, was to underscore the importance of confession, to require confessions more frequently than ever, but to clean up the abuses of the practice and, to use Foucault’s term, to “neutralize” the language of priests, particularly in

Confession and Modern Subjectivity


their sexual interrogations. The codification of language did not diminish the interest in sex in Counter-Reformation confession, however, and if anything, according to Foucault, this interest grew as the language with which it could be discussed was circumscribed. What really interests Foucault in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality is not sexuality in auricular confession, however, but rather the multiplication of forms of sexual confession in secular discourses and the internalization of the coercion to confess such that it is today experienced as a pleasure and a desire. For Foucault, this transformation into desire masks and inverts our intuitions about the workings of power. Foucault is thus concerned with the manners in which the external and internalized compulsion to confess which had developed within Christianity left the confessional and entered not only into the arts, most notably literature, and even into philosophy2 , but even more insidiously into politics, economics, the sciences, law and pedagogy, and fi nally into the desires and intuitions of the modern soul. This transformation occurred as the result of the will to know about, and thus to produce the truth about, human sexuality. Foucault writes: This technique [confession] might have remained tied to the destiny of Christian spirituality if it had not been supported and relayed by other mechanisms. In the fi rst place, by a “public interest.” Not a collective curiosity or sensibility; not a new mentality; but power mechanisms that functioned in such a way that discourse on sex—for reasons which will have to be examined—became essential. 3 In particular, in the eighteenth century, when the influence of the Church was waning and confessional subjectivity might have diminished with it, the technique of compelling confessions and inculcating a need for them was taken up by other domains. In the modern period “population” became a concern, and with it came new objects of inquiry and control. As Foucault writes: At the heart of this economic and political problem of population was sex: it was necessary to analyze the birthrate, the age of marriage, the legitimate and illegitimate births, the precocity and frequency of sexual relations, the ways of making them fertile or sterile, the effects of unmarried life or of the prohibitions, the impact of contraceptive practices [ . . . ] Of course, it had long been asserted that a country had to be populated if it hoped to be rich and powerful; but this was the fi rst time that a society had affi rmed, in a constant way, that its future and its fortune were tied not only to the number and uprightness of its citizens, to their marriage rules and family organization, but to the manner in which each individual made use of his sex. Things went from ritual lamenting over the unfruitful debauchery of the rich,


The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault bachelors, and libertines to a discourse in which the sexual conduct of the population was taken both as an object of analysis and as a target of intervention [ . . . ]4

If religious confession was preoccupied with sex, this preoccupation would be carried over into all of the other forms of confessional discourse proliferating in the modern period: “From the Christian penance to the present day, sex was a privileged theme of confession. A thing that was hidden, we are told [Ce qu’on cache, dit-on].”5 Sex, we say, is what we are ashamed of, what we hide: according to the biblical account of the origin of shame, of what needs to be hidden, Adam and Eve hid their sexual organs, their pudenda or shameful parts. As “ce qu’on cache,” sex is what needs to be revealed in order to be renounced in Christian confession, and what needs to be spoken of in order to be freed in certain therapeutic forms of confession. Moreover, sex remained a privileged locus of confessional discourse in modernity because of its crucial role in the manipulation of populations. Scientific inquiries served the interests of developing demographic, political, and economic concerns with population. If populations were threatened by sterile and non-reproductive forms of sexuality, a country needed to know the extent and the nature of these threats. Consequently sciences such as biology, medicine, psychiatry, and psychology transformed themselves and developed such that they could inquire into the threats to populations, requiring confessions and categorizing confessing subjects according to their sexualities (thus coining and distinguishing between “perversions”), sexualities becoming synonymous with identities in a way that would never have occurred to pre-modern subjects, who identified themselves instead by their alliances, family, and blood. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, therefore, though religion was losing ground, the familiar forms of discourse developed in the confessionals were nevertheless taken up anew, but the speakers, and the aims of their inquiries, had changed. Now the interest in the private lives, actions, and thoughts of individuals came not from priests but from economists, demographers, scientists and doctors. In turn, the disapprobation expressed for non-productive and illegitimate forms of sexuality, though still contaminated with the familiar language of traditional religious morality, was now grounded in rationality and public concern rather than theology, and came as medical diagnoses and criminal charges for perversions which had previously not known names. Le Goff noted the “surprise” and even fear that the initial command to confess, and to hear confessions, was received by the Christian laity and clergy in 1215, and describes the confession manuals which were developed to mediate this alarm. We can imagine a similar surprise in the eighteenth century as new and diverse figures took over from priests the extraction of these confessions. Having grown used to confessional inquiries in their religious lives, Foucault suggests that modern subjects would nevertheless

Confession and Modern Subjectivity


have felt some discomfort when other authorities, for instance doctors, were found posing the same questions. While we have today become used to doctors questioning us about our sexuality when we come to them with earaches and anxieties, as if all medical and psychological problems which we visit doctors about somehow or other relate to our sexual lives, in the nineteenth century, when psychiatrists, doctors and scientists fi rst began actively interrogating people about their sexuality regardless of the nature of their ailments, patients would not have immediately seen why such intrusive inquiries were scientifically justified. Foucault describes five scientific methods which doctors developed for demanding sexual confessions which quelled these suspicions. The fi rst manner in which doctors would have made their sexual questions seem scientifically acceptable was through what Foucault calls a “clinical codification of the inducement to speak,” which is similar to the “neutralization” of language in the Catholic confessional after Reformation critiques. Against allegations of sexual curiosity, priests were instructed to keep their interrogations into the sexual lives of confessants vague and couched in codified language. While doctors might want the sort of detail which characterized pre-Reformation Christian confession, patients were reassured that the questions were professional and of scientific interest by the use of technical terminology. The second manner in which these new interrogations would have been justified by nineteenth-century doctors and psychiatrists was through “the postulate of a general and diffuse causality.” As Foucault writes, “Having to tell everything, being able to pose questions about everything, found their justification in the principle that endowed sex with an inexhaustible and polymorphous causal power.”6 A striking example of such diffuse causal power being attributed to sexual acts is the case of masturbation.7 In Ingmar Bergman’s description of his childhood in the 1930s, for instance, he recounts that at the fi rst stirrings of puberty his older brother gave him The Family Guide to Health to read.8 From this book penned by a sexual expert Bergman learned that masturbation led to paleness, sweating, trembling, bags under the eyes, diffi culties in concentration, troubles in equilibrium, and eventually led to the softening of the brain, lesions to the bone marrow, epileptic fits, loss of consciousness and premature death. As a sin of youth, masturbation thus threatened to undermine the entire fabric of society, or was a serious threat to population. In this case as in others, private sexual acts took on enormous proportions in the modern imaginary. The positing of such dramatic dangers to a child’s health justified a doctor questioning a child about his masturbatory habits, just as, centuries earlier, the ranking of masturbation as particularly high on the scale of mortal sins permitted intrusive and aggressive soliciting of sexual confessions from adolescents on the part of priests. Dangers were falsely attributed to a wide variety of sexual activities and also to intimate bodily functions such as menstruation, as described by Thomas Laqueur.9

thus being debilitating to women’s mental and moral faculties.” That is to say.”11 Given that. and so we give these confessions willingly. This is an assumption which Freud and Breuer would elaborate when they wrote about the “talking cure. and of their interpreting their patients’ confessions with their clinical expertise. in the modern era. which it would hardly seem possible to heal satisfactorily without the aid of surgical treatment. The third justification for inquisitiveness on the part of nineteenthcentury doctors was “the principle of a latency intrinsic to sexuality. and was also regularly compared to heat in non-human animals. torn glands. it is his early and immature psychoanalytic notion of a “talking cure” which has today remained . Finally. jagged edges of stroma. and about masturbation and other sexual acts. Again. who could supposedly derive information from his patients’ sexual confessions which they themselves would never have thought of themselves.70 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Menstruation was described by nineteenth-century doctors as both physically devastating—“leaving behind a ragged wreck of tissue. Freud and Breuer thought that the very act of their patients confessing to them. patients came to believe that just talking about sex with an expert could be therapeutic not only for their sexual problems but for all the other problems to which sex was tenuously linked as well. we can think of Freud. sex and the functions of the sex organs were suddenly deemed dangerous to everyone’s health. doctors had every reason to question their patients about them. ruptured vessels. Similarly. but by now we are used to sexual confessions being required of us. and masses of blood corpuscles. and would realize that talking could repeat rather than heal trauma within a relation of transference with the physician. and the postulate of a “general and diffuse causality” has done its work.”10 despite women’s claims to the contrary—and as psychologically traumatizing. which transference relation (and not mere talking and interpretation) was also the means through which healing could occur.” In this early work. Despite Freud’s own later and more nuanced view. As Foucault writes. “The limitless dangers that sex carried with it justified the exhaustive character of the inquisition to which it was subjected. and to require experts to decipher it. Doctors and sexologists were required to extract confessions because sex was not only dangerous but had a tendency to remain hidden. in the most obvious example. As I will discuss later in this chapter.” as. led to the patients being cured of their various psychological and hysterically physiological ailments. the fourth reason Victorian doctors had to extract sexual confessions from their patients was that sexuality was now seen to be extremely complex. having doctors listen to sexual confessions was scientifically justified “through the medicalization of the effects of confession. Freud would later reject the notion of medical confession as catharsis or abreaction. with the relegation of sexual impulses and desires to the unconscious by Freud. Today we realize that nineteenth-century doctors were mistaken about the debilitating effects of menstruation.

but now it is not the externally exhibited behaviors of prisoners which are monitored and self-monitored. Rousseau imagines himself to be under constant surveillance by the other. . Feeling himself to be everwatched and judged. had been internalized into self-surveillance. Indeed. I must remain incessantly beneath his gaze. This panoptic structure is apparent in Rousseau’s Confessions. he must never lose sight of me for a single instant. . In so doing. he voluntarily provides his judges with the material he perceives them to be seeking.. ] he may wonder what I was doing at that moment [ . nothing about me must remain hidden or obscure. where Rousseau writes: I must present my reader with an apology. but rather the internal life of the persons being watched. Once a belief in the therapeutic need to confess had been implanted in modern subjects. . internalizes this surveillance and proposes through autobiography to provide a full record of his life.12 Like the prisoner in the panopticon. which needs to be verbalized aloud to another. Although Foucault does not make this explicit in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. the extraction of confessions.” that confession is “good for the soul. or rather a justification. . like Kafka’s Joseph K. or that it helps “to get things of our chests. the disciplinary move from surveillance to self-surveillance in the development of confessional subjectivity can be compared to his analysis of panopticism in Discipline and Punish. .” The popularization of the notion that talking has a straightforwardly curative or medicinal effect is an enormous incitement to confessional discourse today.” For Rousseau. Rousseau. even though it was almost immediately refuted within psychoanalytic theory itself. without rendering myself more vulnerable by any silence. autobiography as self-surveillance or confessional truth-telling is at once a means to assert his individualism and to tell his story in defense against the lies of others and an exposure to accusation and judgment. . and who have thus learned to watch themselves. so that he may follow me in all the extravagances of my heart and into every least corner of my life. ] I am laying myself sufficiently open to human malice by telling my story.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 71 influential in popular culture and pop psychology: we believe that speaking is cathartic. to charges of lying and blame for acts and . for if he fi nds the slightest gap in my story [ .” and for this very reason proposes to expose every minutiae of his existence for the scrutiny of the reading public. Rousseau believes that by remaining silent on any topic he will make himself more “vulnerable” to the other’s accusations. ] Since I have undertaken to reveal myself absolutely to the public. such that he “must remain incessantly beneath his gaze. an external form of surveillance. although Rousseau also recognizes that his self-exposure will furnish his judges with ample opportunity for human “malice. for the petty details I have just been entering into [ .

on the other hand. but many. the exposure of the self opens the subject up to being policed. on the face of it.A. and being astounded by the numbers of books she found. this period is thought to be one in which silence was imposed on sex or in which sexuality was repressed. men who have no apparent qualification save that they are not women.” as if the very degree of his vulnerability would prove his honesty and thus protect him. were serious and prophetic. ] Even the names of the books gave me food for thought. Merely to read the titles suggested innumerable schoolmasters. while it is in defense against the accusations of untruth that he endeavors to tell every detail of his existence. Discourses on sexuality in fact expanded in the nineteenth century. It is thus a premature legalistic testimony or defense which immediately and unnecessarily gives rise to the very legal investigation it defends itself against. as for instance in the codified language of doctors and scientists. Woolf would address her female audience by asking: Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many of them were written by men? Are you aware that you are. and that this proliferation was directly linked to the manners in which people were being asked to speak about sex more than ever. a late product of the Victorian era. degree. but what was surprising and difficult of explanation was the fact that sex—woman. As in Foucault’s model of the panopticon. perhaps. . Nevertheless. which in turn leads to paranoia and vigilant self-policing.72 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault thoughts that the public need never have known about. Sex and its nature might well attract doctors and biologists. provide a window “into every least corner of [his] life. Foucault insists that on the contrary non-reproductive sexualities themselves proliferated in this period. young men who have taken the M. men who have taken no degree. Rousseau feels that the act of confession itself functions as expiation for his deeds and thoughts. innumerable clergymen mounting their platforms and pulpits and holding forth with a loquacity which . moral and hortatory. that is to say—also attracts agreeable essayists. light-fi ngered novelists. . and thus to ever greater exposure of the self and ever greater vulnerability to judgment and shame. Although this confessional movement as it occurred in the modern period produced multiple new venues for speaking about sex. and confessants were asked to speak about sex in new ways. the most discussed animal in the universe? [ . even if the questions were being asked by new people. frivolous and facetious. such that even an avid reader such as herself could never hope to read them in a lifetime. Virginia Woolf. In A Room of One’s Own. anticipates Foucault in 1929 by pointing out the incredible proliferation of texts on sexuality that her age had produced when she describes going to the British Museum to do some research on the female sex in particular. Some of these books were.

would be writing books about sex. ] had to be put into words. many Christian confessants soon desired confession to degrees that even the Church deemed excessive. for if I had fi rst to read all that men have written about women. It appears that an external compulsion to confess can quickly become internalized as desire.A. however. It is interesting however that Woolf scoffs at men who do not have an M. in their own way. and a similar situation in the realm of law is apparent in the phenomenon of false confessions. to be discussed below.. . at least with respect to the female sex. and apparently [ . but in police interrogations. Women do not write books about men—a fact that I could not help welcoming with relief. or therapeutic contexts. We may recollect. scientific. It strikes her as at least somewhat acceptable that scientists and doctors and persons with university degrees. compelling. . parents and children—and the Bloomsbury Group delighted in overcoming these “repressions”—in other ways new forms of writing and talking about sex were invented and proliferated such that. which is the coercive nature of sexual confessions. the aloe that flowers once in a hundred years would flower twice before I could set pen to paper.13 Woolf points out that both professionals and non-professionals. The production of data used by the sciences of sex depended on their ability to extract confessions from patients. and as such may by all appearances seem voluntary. and this phenomenon occurs perhaps most dangerously not in religious. . preferably above the M. for instance between teachers and students. then all that women have written about men. To some degree. of specialists. It was a most strange phenomenon.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 73 far exceeded the hour usually allotted to such discourse on this one subject. “sex became something to say.”14 This last citation raises a crucial point. felt authoritatively positioned to produce books on sex in her age. .A. In this attitude of Woolf’s we see that sex had become the proper domain of scientists and experts. but all. and indeed of confessions in general. or that the dominant and respected discourse on sex in the modern West had become that of science. that while religious confessions were originally extracted from penitents upon threat of excommunication. or to incite them to discourse. so long as they were men. . This needs to be stressed in particular because confessions are understood as medicinal and because they are today often pleasurable and desired. degree who nevertheless feel qualified to write about sex. simply belonging to the male sex made these authors feel like authorities. and to say exhaustively in accordance with deployments that were varied. as Foucault writes. ] one confi ned to the male sex. So even if sex was silenced in certain contexts in the Victorian age. Whether in the form of a subtle confession in confidence or an authoritarian interrogation. It is therefore worthwhile exploring Foucault’s explanation of the confessant’s desire for a confession which is nevertheless coerced. sex [ .

and approaching our confessions with great seriousness. It suits us to think that we cannot speak about sex. and even death. because this belief gives us a reason to speak about it and to feel that we are achieving something important both psychologically and politically in the process. and thus confessional speech is already grounded in a pleasure other than the supposed liberation from repression or the achievement of psychic freedom . he argues. Why do we say. incarceration. which is so difficult to reconcile with our inundation with sexual discourses. Moreover. even in penal contexts in which the result of confession was not forgiveness and resolution.74 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault INCITEMENTS TO DISCOURSE The initial compulsion to confess was clearly an external one—individuals did not begin to come to doctors with their personal narratives any more than to their priests or to their inquisitioners. “This explains the solemnity with which one speaks of sex nowadays.”15 Indeed. On the one hand. takes great pains to relate in detail the things it does not say. or produced threats of divine punishment or risks to health. to examine our investment and pleasure in conceiving of ourselves as silenced in order to continue our endless speech. and promises to liberate itself from the very laws that have made it function. and. but punishment.” or the satisfaction of feeling transgressive and progressive. and developed techniques. but rather to show that these very mechanisms of so-called repression have caused sexualities and discourse on sexuality to proliferate rather than to be silenced. psychological. and against ourselves. confessants became convinced by the authoritative claims that confessing was good for their spiritual. like priests and inquisitioners. against our present. By speaking about sex with the preconception that one is repressed.”16 Foucault thus sets out to ask not “Why are we repressed? but rather. it is the attractive hypothesis that we are repressed that has given us a platform on which to be able to confess constantly. For Foucault. inventing new forms and forums for this discourse.” the confessant receives what Foucault calls “the speaker’s benefit. to extract the confessions which did not come voluntarily. with so much passion and so much resentment against our most recent past. in order to speak in the fi rst place? The desire to find such a gratifying hypothesis already assumes an earlier desire to speak. and even their physical health. moreover. which speaks verbosely of its own silence. in so far as confessions speak of “what we hide. fi rst began to ask the persons under their care about their private lives. one gratifyingly feels that one is acting therapeutically for oneself and that one is being a political agent for a more liberated society in the process. denounces the powers it exercises. but rather doctors and psychiatrists. Foucault describes our society as one which has been “loudly castigating itself for its hypocrisy for more than a century. But why would we seek out pretenses such as the repressive hypothesis. that we are repressed?”17 Foucault’s aim is not to claim that there have not been discourses which set out to control sex and discourse on sex.

20 In fi lms and television series such as The Thorn Birds and Le confessionel. voyeuristic. . become objects of desire through their interrogations into the desires and pleasures of their patients. the sinful longings and sinful thoughts and sinful acts. The medical gaze. For Foucault. the desires and pleasures of confession spring from the manners in which confessional speech and the power relations in which it takes place became sexualized in the process of informing themselves about sex. a sexualization of power occurred. and the “spirals of pleasure and power” of confession are multifold: exhibitionist. even if the desire which these confidences give rise to cannot be acted upon in the clinic any more than in the confessional. As Foucault vividly describes it: The power which thus took charge of sexuality set about contacting bodies. despite its vow of chastity. There was undoubtedly an increase in effectiveness and an extension of the domain controlled. is tempted to become a priest because of the intense sexuality offered by priesthood. of others. electrifying surfaces. the sexual tension between young priests and female confessants is played out again and again. in James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. . Stephen Dedalus. like priests. while in the recent Confi dences trop intimes psychotherapeutic confession between the beautiful woman who speaks and the man who listens creates a similar powerfraught eroticism that is at least as old as the relationship between Joseph Breuer and “Anna O. masochistic. .18 Doctors. caressing them with its eyes. dramatizing troubled moments. . being as sinless as the innocent [ . including their sexual secrets. and the whispering subject produces a desire for herself in her listener. He would know the sins. or because of the sexual allure of the confessional: He would know obscure things. and in herself pursues a desire for this desire of the other in her speech. hearing them murmured into his ears in the confessional under the shame of a darkened chapel by the lips of women and of girls [ . not despite its objectivity but because of it. but also a sensualization of power and a gain of pleasure.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 75 and health that the repressive hypothesis assumes. It wrapped the sexual body in its embrace.” Foucault describes the “double effect” of this sensualization of discourse produced within relations of power: . the psychoanalyst Annie Reich has argued that the decision to become a psychoanalyst is at least partially determined by a curiosity to know peoples’ secrets. is sensualized. ]19 Similarly. ] He would hold his secret knowledge and secret power. from those who were conceived and born children of wrath. intensifying areas. hidden from others. When power became interested in sex.

is so deeply ingrained in us. because such self-deception allows us to go on confessing. came to make confessions erotically desired.76 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault [ . . the intensity of the confession renewed the questioner’s curiosity.” confessional speech is now experienced as an internal rather than an external compulsion. Power operated as a mechanism of attraction. that these confessions had too few impediments. an emotion rewarded the overseeing control and carried it further. that if it fails to do so. who urges that we proliferate pleasures in general? . such that Rousseau will have to confess in the Rêveries that he took too much pleasure in writing the Confessions. ]23 But if we deceive ourselves about both our repression and our liberation because it allows us to confess in a way which is gratifying to us. it drew out those peculiarities over which it kept watch. when in fact the existence of such resistance is undermined by our very pleasure in confessing. lodged in our most secret nature “demands” only to surface. They were fi xed by a gaze. and that coercion became sexualized. this is because a constraint holds it in place.”22 We desire to be trapped by the frail and transparent ruse of confession. to overcome. on the contrary. . Foucault writes: The obligation to confess is now relayed through so many different points. but shares an original affi nity with freedom [ . according to Foucault. . the psychic resistance to confess. Describing this inversion and deception. and by its inverted notion of the workings of power. Pleasure spread to the power that harried it. and the overcoming of such resistances or repression is experienced as an achievement of freedom. the next questions to ask are: what are the consequences of this pleasure? Why would this particular form of pleasure worry Foucault. ] an impetus was given to power through its very exercise. and it can fi nally be articulated only at the price of a kind of liberation. seems an effect of power. and our belief that freedom is achieved through confession shows that we are “completely taken in by this internal ruse of confession. or our gratifying talk of such resistances. We thus have an inversed notion of the relation between power and speech. but power reduces one to silence. the pleasure discovered fed back to the power that encircled it. power anchored the pleasure it uncovered. in fact. while the very fact that confessional speech was coerced. But so many pressing questions singularized the pleasures felt by the one who had to reply. Confession frees. it seems to us that truth. isolated and animated by the attention they received. that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us. 21 Caught up in these “perpetual spirals of power and pleasure. however. truth does not belong to the order of power. As such. the violence of a power weighs it down. . The claim that we feel a resistance to confess becomes an excuse to confess.

”28 Confession is assujettisement “in both senses of the word. pleasures become perversions caught up with identity as never before. the things people write books about. but now that they confess. or pleasure. education.” for Foucault. 31 .Confession and Modern Subjectivity TRUTH AND THE SELF 77 “It is possible. with equal justice. But it has defi ned new rules for the game of powers and pleasures. medicine. whatever is most difficult to tell. and the result is that with the confessions that the scientia sexualis required having transformed themselves into a peculiarly Western ars erotica. that the autobiographical project may itself produce and determine the life and that whatever the writer does is in fact determined. one goes about telling. desire. homosexuality as act. family relationships. but as a new method of playing the game. to the extent that Peter Brooks can claim that there would be no modern self without confession. by the resources of its medium?”25 For Foucault. confession has become the manner in which subjectivity is produced in the modern West.” Foucault writes. things it would be impossible to tell to anyone else. One confesses in public and in private. already existed before people engaged in it became compelled and enticed to talk about it. one’s doctor. one admits to oneself. The point is not far from de Man’s argument in “Autobiography as De-facement” that autobiography will create life rather than life creating autobiographies: de Man writes: “We assume that life produces the autobiography as an act produces its consequences. in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life.”30 and having long-since left the confi ned space of the confessional. with the greatest precision. and it has doubtless not discovered any original vices. one’s sins. modern “man. “The truthful confession was inscribed at the heart of the procedures of individuation by power. and love relations.”27 Replacing early modern forms of identity based in family. the homosexual was now a species. in pleasure and in pain. or bloodline.”29 In an identity-obsessed society in which identity is produced through confession. one’s illnesses and troubles.”24 The mise-en-discours of sex is thus not qualified as a new pleasure. The frozen countenance of the perversions is a fi xture of this game. one confesses one’s crimes. in all its aspects. but can we not suggest. to one’s parents. pressured libidinally. allegiance. “that the West has not been capable of inventing any new pleasures. one’s educators. the domains of discourse in which this animal confesses are almost all-encompassing. psychologically and politically to “come out of the closet” and affi rm who they are by means of this speech. As Foucault writes: The confession has spread its effects far and wide. 26 In the now classical example which Foucault provides. one’s thoughts and desires. the act becomes the defi ning trait of their being: “The sodomite had been a temporary aberration. has become a “confessing animal. It plays a part in justice. to those one loves. and in the most solemn rites.

and although sexuality remains privileged in the many forms of confession we produce today. In Foucault’s terms. an “everyday occurrence in the life of village sexuality”34 was treated as and thus incorporated by the subject as “a singular nature. Jouy had the bad luck to live in an age in which sexualities and sexual perversions were being categorized and studied with great zeal. but in the process we create these truths.”32 Within relations of power we are compelled. As Foucault writes: “truth is not by nature free—nor error servile—[ . Because sexuality in the modern period had come to be seen as the key to a subject’s identity. Foucault uses the controversial example of a nineteenth-century French peasant named Jouy. We confess to our childhoods. In the case of Jouy. In confessing to our childhoods. as Foucault presents it. and internalize the compulsion. and create selves as products of power. while truth is always a product of power. ] its production is thoroughly imbued with relations of power. and to the power dynamics of our families. Jouy was “a bit simple-minded. and in earlier eras the community would have thought little of this. we create and remain that child. rather than reveal and overcome her. it is clear from this passage that we now nevertheless confess to everything to do with the “self.78 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Although sins and particularly sexual sins interested Christian confessors. constructing the truths of selves in its quest to “reveal” them. and he was arrested and placed in the custody of doctors and psychiatrists.” and not just to our sins and our sex lives. for instance. . The confession is an example of this. . for instance. to search out and bring into the light of day the truth of our selves. for Foucault. Jouy was individualized by power in the process of his interrogations. The problem for Foucault is that all this confession is involved in a hermeneutics of the self which involves a particular form of truth production.” and paid young girls in the village for sexual favors because older girls would not provide him with them. harmless and meaningless sexual activities on Jouy’s part were taken an interest in. and investigating his case was an opportunity to understand the nature of pedophiles in general. it was the force of his circumstances that made this peasant have sex with young girls rather than women his own age. but he was given and took on an identity as pedophile because scientists viewed him as such and made him speak in these terms. 33 Although. Jouy was attributed with a set of characteristics which would apply to all aspects of his being and not merely to his sex life. These doctors made Jouy speak and made his confessions an object of science. as a certain popularized version of psychoanalysis would have it. He was not a pedophile before he began confessing. As pedophile. in ways which would not have interested Renaissance priests. the sexual acts that Jouy had engaged in did not appear to the doctors and scientists who investigated his case to be the result of his circumstances. for Foucault. and so what were. but an expression of his essential being. To illustrate his point about the productive power of discourse.” This “nature” was assumed to be “written immodestly .

An individual’s sexual practices have ceased to be seen as something that could change with circumstances. and historical research into sex crimes in premodern times would seem to affi rm this. 36 Jouy. could be a truly political or liberatory act. and modern science wanted to know the truth about the private lives of populations. but for Foucault this was not always and need not have been the case. As such. the multiplication of pleasures. or was produced through the extraction of confessional discourse and through the workings of coercive power. study his facial bone structure. however. The Church and the inquisitional tribunals which it created wanted to know the truth about the acts and thoughts of the laity. THE PRODUCTION OF TRUTH. That confessions are particularly authentic cases of truth-telling has a wide acceptance. and the result of it is not liberation from repressive power but rather a submission to it and a fi xation of identity and thus a loss of freedom. If sexual confession brings us narcissistic and erotic pleasure. and the truth of sex and of human subjectivity in particular. is not given freely.” In an effect of the sciences of sex which is remarkable today. spent the rest of his life institutionalized in the hospital of Maréville. as is seen quite literally in the case of Jouy. and . 37 What is clear for Foucault is that the confessional discourse which produces sexuality. unlike theft for instance. it also deprives subjects of pleasures set outside the margins of their particular categories of individualization. whatever pleasure it brings. and inciting confessional speech was a disciplinary method of producing this truth. rather than the further multiplication of the pleasures of confessional discourses on pleasure. living in the age which he did and thus having the significance of his sex acts construed as intrinsic to his identity and thus to repetition. we see that as sex became essential to identity. as in Jouy’s case. when sexual crimes. and sex offenders are hence thought to be (and are thus constructed to be) bound to repeat their crimes. for Foucault. Sex has become viewed as destiny. as they would for homosexuals and other “perverts. not to be overcome. and thus that destiny was enforced.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 79 on his face and body”35 such that the doctors would go so far as to measure Jouy’s brainspan. including socially transgressive sexualities. a procedure which our society has developed for producing the truth. Today it seems true that sex offenders are prone to reoffend unless their bodies are tampered with. law came to think of interfering with the very body and brain of the criminal (chemical castration therapy for instance). as was not the case in pre-modern legal thought. AND FALSE CONFESSIONS It has been seen that Foucault considers confession a form of truth-production. and “perversions” are now seen as permanent. and examine his anatomy for the source of his degeneration and perversion. were taken little interest in and not deemed bound to an offender’s character or to repetition.

giving the text the authoritative status of truth.”40 The “truth” referred to here is a socially constructed one. Such speech acts do not simply refer to the past of the individual.’ which is the notion of truth most prevalent in Foucault’s work and which I have been discussing so far.’ the ‘constructivist notion of truth. but are determining factors in her future as well. despite his attention to the coercive effects of power and desire. therefore. but rather what is understood from its occurrence—is a thoroughly political construct with no ontological existence prior to relations of power.”39 Foucault nuances the belief that an authentic self is simply being born witness to in autobiographical writing. but much more significantly as being the truth of her inner self. . While a confessing subject may tell the truth about what she has done or thought. Truth.80 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Philippe Lejeune has argued in “Le pacte autobiographique” that the fact that the author’s name appears as both the proper name of the character in her story and as signature to the text functions as a quasi-legalistic contract. is that what the confessant says about her acts and thoughts is true to begin with. or is propositionally true. Brooks notes that “from early in the Romantic era onward. and thus that every event and every claim has multiple meanings. Prado has identified five “faces of truth” in Foucault’s work. and not the fact that an event occurred.’41 The fi rst three notions of truth are inter-related and are the notions of truth for which Foucault is most well-known. truth is a product of power and is constraining rather than freeing. for Foucault. G.’ according to which there are only interpretations. not mathematical or geometrical truths. 38 Similarly. As such. ‘perspectivist notion of truth. Western literature has made the confessional mode a crucial kind of self-expression that is supposed to bear a special stamp of sincerity and authenticity and to bear special witness to the truth of the individual personality.’ the ‘perspectivist notion of truth. or at least the truth he is interested in—e.g. arguing that a disciplined self is rather being produced. The ‘constructivist notion of truth. The Nietzschean. C. What is assumed throughout Foucault’s writings on confession. this truth is spoken and understood not simply as relating to the circumstantial acts or arbitrary thoughts of the speaking subject. What “truth” means for Foucault is a complicated question.’ and the ‘tacitrealist notion of truth. Foucault is known for making claims such as “Truth is undoubtedly the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history. which he labels the ‘criterial notion of truth. and that truth of the inner self is produced for Foucault through this form of discourse. The ‘criterial notion of truth’ refers to the relativistic mechanisms for distinguishing between truth claims which are particular to specific societies and times. as in the citation above. and yet the fact that Foucault calls this truth an error suggests that there exists a more objective truth in relation to which socially constructed truths can be deemed errors. and which most alarm his critics. is also relativistic. argues that truth is a production of power.’ the ‘experiential notion of truth.

however. perspectival. Experiential truths are proven to “work. and since his own genealogies do involve value judgments. and the fact that we remember these events rather than others. and criterial. Although medieval trials and therapeutic truths both arguably draw on an experiential notion of truth. What interests me is that when Foucault discusses confession. Prado’s claim that Foucault viewed his own genealogical claims as truths of the tacit-realist sort is. but in telling this story repeatedly it can become part of who one is. Prado offers further examples of experiential truths. are truths derived from tests. how one understands oneself and is seen by others. . not rational deduction. Similarly. inaccurate. In other words. whereas the histories which his own genealogies refute are deemed perspectivist. as Foucault explicitly and repeatedly acknowledged that his own genealogies were as perspectivist as any other history.43 Not all truth claims are equal. that a twelfth-century subject would resort to walking over hot coals to experience truth whereas a twentieth-century subject is satisfied with the “truth” of a narrative constructed in therapy because it helps her to make sense of her life. constructed. however. these histories are self-consciously perspectival. or through experiences which challenge our beliefs and values. he considers confessional truths only as criterial. torture. one can confess to an act which one did not. if an interpretation of a symptom led to the relief of that symptom.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 81 Somewhat differently. This is a notion of truth which Foucault describes as “repugnant to both science and philosophy. Prado acknowledges. and criterial. Beyond the basic claim that events such as deaths under National Socialism occurred. For Prado. For Freud. In this sense. experiential truths are also constructed. for Foucault. In this category we might place performative or therapeutic truths. and how one goes on to act. the ‘experiential notion of truth. perspectivist. but were different in being self-conscious of their perspectivism. In cases such as these. such as truths resulting from the loss of religious or political faith. and refers to ahistorical truths. commit. or from the betrayal of a friend. the demonstration of truth occurred through experience. constructed.” not entirely unlike medieval épreuves. every value we attach to events. that Foucault has a tacit-realist notion of truth is contradictory to his project. this indicated that the interpretation was true. however. Finally. for instance the claim that millions of Jews and others died under National Socialism is propositionally true in a way which the statements of a Holocaust denier are not.’ in Foucault’s examples. are.”42 because derived from events personally experienced rather than from reason. the claim becomes true of oneself through its performance. shows that experiential truths draw on mechanisms available to the subject depending on her social context. in fact. trials. Prado argues that Foucault’s own tacit understanding of his genealogical writings is that they are true in a realist sense. very infrequently in Foucault’s writings. what is being called the ‘tacit-realist notion of truth’ arises. based on accepted methods of verification. perspectival.

As has been seen. and whether such statements also become true of the self or are experientially and constructively true. In particular. psychoanalysis) that make use of but abuse the autobiographical mode may in some cases be seen as self-transformative in a positive way. importantly. confessions which are false in terms of propositional content may become experientially true. Foucault in fact defi nes confession as “To declare aloud and intelligibly the truth of oneself. and in general one confesses to what one has actually experienced. death) for the speaking subject. which is not irrelevant in the case of legal confessions. or what is true in a propositional sense of the word. The following section will argue that false confessions are not. he does not consider the case in which one confesses to something which. and the woman begins to speak to him about her private life. consider whether or not confessions are propositionally true. or never thought about before the moment of confession. perhaps. however. as excusatory. as shameful. however. however. in psychoanalysis. or perhaps that they become true of the inner self of the confessant through the very practice of confession. a tax lawyer. may tend towards untruth by its very nature as pleasurable. While we know that false confessions exist in all confessional realms— in religious confession. PLEASURES In the 2004 fi lm by Patrice Leconte. false confessions made in a legal context may be particularly prone to bear witness to. Confi dences trop intimes. and only when the consultation is underway. in autobiography. in fact. a woman hoping to make an appointment with a psychiatrist mistakenly knocks on the door of the psychiatrist’s neighbor. experiential. and in private confessions—it may be thought that Foucault does not discuss them because they are atypical of confessions. never desired. we need to think about what kinds of subjectivities are confessed to in false confessions. he is too embarrassed to interrupt her. and can result in material harm (incarceration. while fiction or other aesthetic practices (including. in criminal interrogations. and as coercive. stigmatization. one never did. When the woman returns the following week for . He does not. and produce a self-destructive subject. In other words. her marriage and her unhappiness rather than about her income and expenses. Even when Foucault makes references to practices of extracting confessions through torture. and moreover that confessional discourse. If in the process of being confessed false confessions become true of the subject in a performative or experiential sense.82 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault and. at which point.” 44 and thus it might be thought that false confessions simply are not confessions. fulfill. does he realize that a mistake has been made. atypical. The tax lawyer assumes that the woman is requesting an appointment to go over her fiscal affairs with him. far from being true by defi nition.

Soon after. during which the woman tells her confessor about her handicapped and abusive husband. Having anticipated the woman’s exposure and the confessor’s response to the discovery that he has been manipulated by a woman’s sexual fantasies. On further reflection. however. In the course of his threats to the tax lawyer. the viewer may actually feel let down by the banality of the story as it concludes: the tales were true. the husband moreover confi rms the confessions his wife has made. he is visited by the woman’s husband who. having taken pleasure in making her confessions to him. making it increasingly awkward for him to interrupt her with his own confession of mistaken identity. which is certainly more interesting than his other consultations. and the fact that they are true thus strikes one as counter-intuitive. with psychological transparency and a neat and happy ending. asking his advice on the woman’s case. One day. he learns that she had realized the error after their fi rst meeting but had decided to return anyway. as he is intrigued by his beautiful confessant and by the narrative she is telling. there is less psychological complexity than anticipated. there were no factual clues leading us to doubt the woman’s honesty. but fi nds he is not given the opportunity to do so as his confessant immediately takes up her intimate speech once more. once the woman has left her husband. only to discover that she does in fact live in the sort of place she has described to him. the tax lawyer gives in to his intrigue and suspicion and follows the woman home after their meeting. and so. there is no impediment to the attraction and love which has grown between confessant and confessor. We are left. what is precisely so interesting about Confi dences trop intimes is that by foiling our expectations it shows that we are intuitively suspicious of confessions. In the process of advising him. When he does at last inform her of the mistake. The psychiatrist. At this point in the fi lm. does in fact exist and is exactly as the woman had described him. and the confessional scenes are presented as erotic seductions of the confessor by the confessant. her sexual dissatisfaction. the psychiatrist plants the seed of doubt in the lawyer’s mind that the woman’s confessions might be untrue. the tax lawyer visits the psychiatrist next door and confides in him what has occurred. no empirical hints that her . Part of him also does not desire to bring these strange meetings to an end through such an admission. perhaps even disappointing some viewers in the plot. Indeed. however. the tax lawyer.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 83 her next appointment the tax lawyer has decided to clear up the misunderstanding as soon as she arrives. Increasingly preoccupied by the meetings. The two therefore agree to continue their weekly meetings. to the viewer’s surprise. The surprise of the fi lm is that the confessions are true. however. and the viewer have all been suspicious that the confessant’s tales be deceptions. The tax lawyer is soon passing his time between visits in restless anticipation of their weekly meetings. the viewer more or less assumes that the woman’s stories are seductions rather than truths. against all our expectations of French fi lms. and her sexual desires.

living in anticipation of her visits. for instance. In an example of such a confession to a false confession. admits to taking pleasure in the humiliation of confession to a parental authority such that he is willing to fabricate deeds to confess to. while the semi-conscious awareness of his selfdeception provides an additional locus for pleasurable shame. The gratifying nature of the relation between confessant and confessor makes the content of the confessions too good to be true. Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man. a plea to a parental figure to punish the child in order that the child may be reintegrated into parental love. with a prolongation of a mutual pleasure and with the incitement of desire in her listener. this situation is quickly reversed and complexified. having had no right to learn the things about her private life that he did. As erotic performances and as seductions of the listener it seems that desire. and that he did not interrupt her immediately to tell her this. he writes: . while the confessor is in a position of power as the one who hears and witnesses the woman’s self-exposure. the viewer quite naturally assumes that truth will be left by the wayside and that what the woman decides to say will have more to do with sexual fantasy and seduction. another form of pleasure which confession brings. The confessor now has to confess to his confessant that he is not a psychiatrist. is masochistic. The confessor is quickly under the sway of his confessant.”45 and. and for having taken pleasure in this shame. as it raises those of the psychiatrist and of the tax lawyer himself. and which also endangers the truthfulness of what is said. and thus the need for more confession. but received her confessions as an impostor. he is not indifferent to how she will respond to his self-exposure of guilt. for confessing to having confessed falsely. and this spiraling is apparent in Confi dences trop intimes: if originally the situation is one in which the woman is in psychological need and is vulnerable as a result of her confessions. Seduced by what she has said. According to Theodor Reik’s psychoanalytic study of confession. In this complex bond between confessant and confessor. If the form of confessional pleasure apparent in Confi dences trop intimes is voyeuristic and exhibitionistic. and then feels genuinely ashamed of them. is that the confessional sessions are pleasurable. what raises the viewer’s suspicions. than with a devotion to historical fact.84 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault story might have been false. As seen. libidinally and emotionally invested in the pleasure of hearing her speak. He is thus capable of deceiving himself to the extent of feeling shame over acts he only lied about having committed. the desire for punishment from a parental authority may lead the confessant to make false confessions of guilt for the pleasures that they produce. Foucault has described the “perpetual spirals of pleasure and power” involved in the confessional relation. Rather. is the end of the words spoken. confession is “a call for punishment. desiring the continuation of their relation. rather than an accurate description of facts. as in the case of erotic confessions.

One knows that Rousseau had in fact already begun drafting his confessional writings before his exposure by Voltaire. repented my wickedness. given the centrality of sexuality to a person’s entire identity. were thus once again abandoned or set aside. it seemed self-evident to Rousseau. is characteristic of modern confession. Rousseau’s Confessions.46 Many descriptions of confession admit that the confession was experienced as a pleasurable form of shame. undermines the truth-telling function of the confession. and cried. for something with which I’d had nothing to do even in thought or dream. and yet a discussion of them occurs only quite late and then briefly in the Confessions. was his self and thus his sexuality. in this. for Foucault. almost purposely. satisfaction seems to be derived from a self-destructive gratification of guilt which longs for punishment and exposure. even so. But. This seems a bit peculiar if one keeps in mind that Rousseau’s supposed incentive for writing his Confessions was his exposure for having abandoned all of his children and then having had the audacity to offer child-raising advice in Émile. or their memories. including the abandonment of his children. That’s what was most disgusting. of course. Rousseau claims in his Confessions: “I have presented myself as I am” (“Je me suis montré tel que je fus”) 47 and “I have unveiled my interior” (“j’ai dévoilé mon intérieur”). however. by explaining his sexuality. Papa. Rousseau immediately discusses his sexuality in a manner which. and the ways in which this form of pleasure. in desiring to unveil his interior self. as in the case of erotic pleasure. as a nod to this excuse we might have expected that Rousseau would begin with his confession of these abandonments. have the slightest respect for a man who tries to fi nd pleasure in the feeling of humiliation itself? I’m not saying that out of any mawkish sense of repentance.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 85 How can one. which to a pre-modern or early-modern subject would have seemed a strange logic indeed. In general. On the contrary. like those of the Underground Man. . and thus that the revelation of his abandonment of his children functioned merely as an excuse for the continued writing and publication of the Confessions.48 This account of his “enterprise” is consistent with Foucault’s analysis of modern confessional subjectivity in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction in that the confessant wants to tell the truth of his “inner self. after all. And you should’ve seen under what circumstances too! I’d get myself blamed. demonstrate this masochistic pleasure in confessing. Rousseau may have thought that he was explaining all of his later deeds. I was always deeply moved. In other cases. 49 Nevertheless. I’ll never do it again. perhaps I was only too prone to say it. and his children. In fact. The crucial thing to explain. I was deceiving myself. I couldn’t stand saying ‘Sorry.” Moreover. although I never did so deliberately.’ [later he says he is an orphan] And it wasn’t at all because I was incapable of saying it.

in these fi rst pages of the Confessions describing Rousseau’s aunt and the masochistic desires she supposedly implanted in him. whereas really he was eleven and she was forty. A suspect confessing to a crime may similarly feel purged of his guilt. for instance. even if it cannot be identified with an historical event. however. whatever the ages of Rousseau and his aunt at the remembered time. accuracy regarding ages and dates may not matter. may not be true in demonstrating that the confessant actually stole an apple. there are several “errors” in fact: for instance Rousseau claims that his parents and his aunt and uncle married on the same day when their weddings were in fact some years apart. a masochistic sexuality. for Freud the truth of the memories he retrieved from a patient’s unconscious was proved by its effectiveness in curing symptoms. With respect to the truth of Rousseau’s character. and perhaps consequently being punished for the theft. and so psychic effectiveness may indicate a therapeutic truth. since the autobiographer aims less to tell propositional truths than to tell the truth of his inner self.86 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault The sexuality to which Rousseau confesses is. “The false referentiality of confession may be secondary to the need to confess. Returning to Rousseau. famously. and he also says that on the occasion that he was disciplined by his aunt he was eight and she was thirty. even if he did not commit the crime. just as it does not matter narratively if the Underground Man invents the story of having confessed to his ‘Papa’ deeds he never committed (if indeed he is not an orphan). may actually serve a performative or therapeutic truth-function: as noted. and the Underground Man from the shame of describing his abjectly false confessions. and he describes at the outset of his Confessions the pleasures he took in being physically punished by his aunt and the desire he felt for a repetition of this punishment. As Brooks writes. as has often been noted. A confession about guilt over stealing an apple. Peter Brooks argues that these sorts of errors in autobiographical writings may not be significant to the truthfulness of an autobiographer’s project judged on its own terms. and whether or not the Underground Man ever really had a father to whom he could make false confessions in the hopes of punishment. The interesting connection . some narrative of guilt. unless he simply feels more guilt for having lied in his confession and as a result of the pleasures he experienced in being punished. confessing to the stolen apple. and this is true. it does not really matter that he was really eleven and his aunt was really forty when the disciplining incident occurred (if it occurred). desire which he nevertheless never dared admit to any of his lovers and hence never again had fulfi lled. but it may be true in so far as it indicates that the confessant feels a certain guilt which requires some outlet.”50 Moreover. What matters is that Rousseau is getting masochistic pleasure from the shame of confessing to his masochism. Similar discrepancies are found throughout the Confessions. We might note here that right away. for which the apple-story is a more or less arbitrary solution.

. As such.” noting “the easy flow of hyperboles (‘ . saying that she had given it to him. SHAME In “Excuses (Confessions). as indeed eventually happens. je la craignois [la honte] plus que la mort. and is thus not part of the confessional mechanism. plus que tout au monde. he imagines that Marion might have been condemned to a life of prostitution once her honesty was cast into doubt. about the masochistic pleasure with which this performance in fact provided him.”52 De Man goes on to claim that Rousseau’s shame “is primarily exhibitionistic. risking the shame of being exposed in his pleasure in exposure. De Man notes the “obvious satisfaction in the tone and the eloquence of the passage. . and is more about the performative exposure of the truth of Rousseau’s self and. is not the content of any particular lies. rendering her unhireable for other domestic jobs. but is rather the way in which masochistic confessional desire produces the need for lies precisely because the propositional truth or falsity of what is said is less important than expressing and providing an outlet for the confessant’s pleasurable shame and guilt. the obvious delight with which the desire to hide is being revealed [ . and his lies. Both Rousseau and Marion lost their jobs. J’aurois voulu m’enforcer. de Man points out that it is in fact written “with special panache” and “relish. but while Rousseau. whether or not the incident with Rousseau’s aunt ever occurred at any age is beside the point. as a man. and indeed inspired him to write his Confessions. . . plus que le crime. In the confession of the stolen ribbon. Marion. . simply continued in his travels. When the stolen ribbon was discovered in his possession. and particularly with respect to the incident of the stolen ribbon. ’).” de Man underscores the pleasure Rousseau takes in recounting moments of shame.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 87 between the confessant’s masochism. by his episodes of sexual exhibitionism. Rousseau writes that he blamed the theft on Marion. Truth may be an impediment to the fulfi llment of a confessant’s desire and motivation in confession. ]. his need for shameful exposure. Rousseau tells his reader that he stole a ribbon while working as a servant in order to give the ribbon to another domestic in the household. because the purpose of the Confessions is less to tell the truth about what happened in historical fact.”51 or with apparent pleasure. De Man’s point here is more damning.” Rousseau’s exhibitionism is perhaps anecdotally confi rmed. m’étouffer dans le centre de la terre . . and repeated his incrimination of the maid under further interrogations. as he tells us that he enjoyed exposing himself to young girls. however: . Although for this reason the ribbon episode is supposedly painful for Rousseau to describe. This is purportedly the moment in his past which caused Rousseau the most regret and shame. for Rousseau. elsewhere in the Confessions.

the crime is bleak indeed. the better. in the later narrative.88 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault What Rousseau really wanted is neither the ribbon nor Marion. makes the gesture of confession an act of bravery. The “gratifi cation” of confession. such that it is predictable that Rousseau would confess to the stolen ribbon episode again in the Rêveries. en abîme. the more theft. of confessing despite this shame. expressing one’s “scruples” before one gets around to confessing. for each new stage in the unveiling suggests a deeper shame. and stubborn persistence in each of them. to furnish him with a good ending for Book II of his Confessions. provides one with an excuse to confess. rendering confession into a pleasure. The more crime there is. One gets pleasure in confessing because it is said to be difficult. and one loses one’s excuse to confess. it ceases to be difficult. rather than for the reasons Rousseau’s excuses put forth.” The claim that one is overcoming resistance and shame in order to tell the truth. the confession also produces more shame. a greater impossibility to reveal. the more satisfying the scene. however. especially. the more there is to be ashamed of. . The fact that he made no attempt to conceal the evidence confi rms this. “the greater satisfaction in outwitting this impossibility [of confessing]. as it effaces the supposed shame and difficulties which were said to be the motivating factors of the confession in the fi rst place. and thus the need for more confession. The more there is to expose. lie. And. however. claiming that confession is difficult. depends on the pleasures of shame. or as de Man says. but merely in order to provide him with a stage on which to parade his disgrace or. if it was for the pleasure of its future revelation that Marion was destroyed. the more satisfying and eloquent the belated revelation. nor for the sake of his desire for her. . the “speaker’s benefit” which Foucault has described. For Foucault. mixing or replacing shame with pride. the pleasures of overcoming shame. These “scruples. slander. and. for it suggests that Marion was destroyed. 53 It has been seen that Foucault writes that “The confession is a ritual of discourse [ . ] a ritual in which the truth is corroborated by the obstacles and resistances it has to surmount in order to be formulated. This desire is truly shameful.” resistances. the more resistance to exposure. as is implied in its description as exposure of the desire to expose. and so forth en abîme in what Derrida has described as an almost machine-like functioning. . a quasi-heroic and emancipatory act. what amounts to the same thing. of the inability to reveal. make confession a feat which one can afterwards congratulate oneself on accomplishing. and thus pleasurable in virtue of its very claims about pain and shame.” This satisfaction is problematic. and yet if it is too pleasant. as de Man notes. and a greater satisfaction in outwitting this impossibility. not for the sake of Rousseau’s saving face. but the public scene of exposure which he actually gets. As de Man points out. The structure is self-perpetuating.

but rather we repress. one speech act among others. in producing more shame. Similarly. she has been avenged by what he has suffered since. or before a greater public than that of the original Turin household. and yet the problem is that this second shame is but another pleasure. The guilt and shame experienced as a result of the stolen ribbon episode. but instead produces more of this need. He must now confess to having enjoyed confessing. to go on repeating the confession. and hence the falsity of this story might undermine . Guilt is forgiven because it allows for the pleasure of revealing its repression. so far as it is supposed to be difficult. to the shame of having enjoyed exposing his shame.”55 Repression indeed functions as a justification. at the end of the Fourth Rêverie. The pleasure which he takes in this revelation. and disguise. are said to have been the very motivating factor for Rousseau’s writing of the Confessions. to have the pleasure of speaking of ourselves and our exquisite shame. cathartic (even though.”54 We have already seen that Foucault is also less interested in repression’s existence than in the way it is mobilized as a reason to confess. and so we repress. “We do not repeat because we are repressed. reproducing itself interminably). as noted. Although this would salvage Rousseau’s innocence with respect to Marion. Rousseau argues that however much he may have harmed Marion. The supposed overcoming of repression is understood as emancipatory.” Derrida in a manner exculpates Rousseau of having destroyed Marion by insinuating that the theft and the scene of accusation may never have taken place. suffering the penance of his shame belatedly but in a magnified fashion. Rousseau thus rightly worries. De Man continues. negates it as a suffering of penance. we are close to Deleuze’s point in Difference and Repetition that. “shame used as excuse permits repression to function as revelation and thus to make pleasure and guilt interchangeable. a form of penance for the original crime. In “Typewriter Ribbon. or claim to be repressed. Moreover. in order to go on speaking. it is the very opposite of cathartic. not allowing it to function as exculpation. the confession does not serve the purpose of doing away with the need for confession. he effaces this crime in the counter-act of revealing it. If his original crime against Marion was to conceal his shame. it would at the same time culpabilize Rousseau for fabricating a story which is central to the Confessions and which reoccurs in the Rêveries. over the too great pleasure he took in writing his Confessions. who may never have existed.” but in the throes of his own guilt and shame in memory. however. and.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 89 and thus the excuse for confession (resistance/pleasure) may well render that which is confessed to inexcusable. as de Man notes. in order to go on repeating. not least of all experienced in his act of (twice) confessing publicly to his crime. the aim of de-repression furnishing the confessor with a reason to confess. And we want to confess. not only at the hands of her innumerable “avengers. make much of this repression as preface to our confessions. It follows that repression is in fact an excuse.

A delicate and abyssal problem of conscious or unconscious archivation. And: every hypothesis is possible.90 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Rousseau’s project more than some of the other untruths which we know are strewn throughout the text. no descriptions from witnesses to the event. they entered the opera house. de Francueil would deny it if it were true. . confessions which do not even bind Rousseau to Augustine. Augustine. early in the Confessions Rousseau tells of walking in Paris with M. 57 If indeed the story is fictitious—and it is hard to imagine why M. in the ligneous lineage of the same genealogical tree bearing forbidden fruit. and seems in no way advantageous to tell. refunded his ticket. “Will one ever have access to the truth of this story [ . the same wood. the same paper pulp. Derrida expresses amazement at the observation that Rousseau. while in Rousseau’s it is the ribbon. regarding a pure and simple invention of the episode of the theft out of a compositional concern: at sixteen years old and in the second book of his Confessions. . M. Although he never goes so far as to insist that the ribbon episode was fabricated. was sixteen years old. In both cases the theft is of a useless object. and fi nding themselves submerged in a crowd. The same tree. and moreover to a theft supposedly occurring when he. and the latter writes in her autobiography that her grandfather always denied that this story ever happened. Through his second marriage to Aurore de Saxe. and in both cases the confession of this theft takes place at the close of Book 2 of the respective Confessions. M. The story of the refunded ticket thus seems to be a mere . closer to his predecessor. like his predecessor. de Francueil paid for Rousseau’s ticket.” Derrida wonders. Rousseau turned around. it would be a matter of sharing the titles of nobility. In Augustine’s case it is pears. like Augustine. de Francueil would become George Sand’s grandfather. like the great ancestor of the Confessions. Derrida notes that there are no archives other than Rousseau’s two confessions of the event to prove that the theft and lie about the ribbon ever took place. de Francueil. although I will abstain here from making any. as it is not directly relevant to the rest of his work. confesses to a theft. and which are hence even more gratuitous and surprising. ]?. realizing afterwards that his friend would have discovered his absence the moment people took their seats. No trace remains of Marion. and absconded with the money. who invites him to the opera. According to Rousseau. For instance. he also admits to stealing apples. with whom. 56 Derrida’s suspicion that Rousseau would invent a central story such as the ribbon episode simply to inscribe himself in the tradition of Augustine is supported by the fact that Rousseau confessed to other incidents of shameful guilt in the Confessions which have been cast into serious doubt. although. since it is not unflattering to him—it is equally difficult to see what Rousseau’s incitement was to invent it.

many years later in his Rêveries. if untrue.” He continues: . Peter Brooks writes that such false confessions are possible “precisely because the false referentiality of confession may be secondary to the need to confess. Rousseau’s Confessions. Ann Hartle also notes the fact that stories of minor theft conclude the second books of both the Confessions of Saint Augustine and of Rousseau. or to make evident his difference from the earlier author with respect to philosophical questions of selfreflection and self-knowledge. He confesses to it again. he is willing to invent shameful stories to confess to for the sheer pleasure that the shame brings him. and the fi nal two or three books to the present. The Passion of Anna. are a self-conscious reply to Saint Augustine. in the en abîme or machine-like structure of desire and shame and guilt producing confessions which in turn produce more desire and shame and guilt and hence more confession. making it a philosophical project which was not intended to be autobiographical. as noted. and both works devote the fi rst nine books to the past. and thus.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 91 product of Rousseau’s exhibitionist pleasure in shame. He feels tormented for the lie he perhaps never told. Private Confessions). and which therefore need not necessarily be truthful about Rousseau’s life. and moreover that this is but one in a series of structural similarities between the two works. such that. Whatever the motivation for the confession. like the Underground Man. rather than for the lie of lying that he had lied. The fact that Rousseau confesses to the ribbon episode a second time in the Rêveries suggests an ongoing guilt and thus that the confession of the theft and lie. to never speak of again. we see that the line between deception and self-deception in Rousseau’s case and possibly in all cases is impossible to discern. In addition to the similarity which Derrida observes. From these structural similarities. If Rousseau’s story of his theft of and lie about a ribbon is similarly untrue to that of the opera ticket—and the coincidence Derrida notes seems suspiciously remarkable—the false confession not only brings Rousseau shame. but may also have produced more guilt. Hartle points out that both texts also describe a conversion in Book 8. one wonders if Rousseau went on to sincerely be tortured by the memory of the lie within the lie. but also functions as a means for him to inscribe himself in a tradition of great Confessions. In her study of Rousseau. As in a theme which Ingmar Bergman has explored in several fi lms in which destructive. but is mimicking the structure of Augustine’s work in order to challenge him. after all. as Derrida notes. we cannot necessarily know whether someone’s confession is a lie or a self-deception. of the lie which may not have taken place: the blaming of the theft on Marion. served as an outlet to that guilt. Hartle argues. heartwrenching confessions turn out to be untrue and even superfluous (The Silence. at the time of the Confessions. Rousseau is not trying to inscribe himself in the tradition of great Confessions. apparently still preoccupied with the “memory” which he hoped. Hartle draws a different conclusion from Derrida: according to Hartle.

is often and perhaps even necessarily lost to the fulfillments of the confessional machine’s desires.92 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault This need [is] produced by the coercion of interrogation or by the subtler coercion of the need to stage a scene of exposure as the only propitiation of accusation. is to be understood in terms of the performative speech act of the promise. even if. 58 We might want to resist Brooks’ projection of a notion of the death drive onto the millennia-old Talmudic law. which . his autobiographical text. Or. Or. confession may be the product of the death-drive. and hence inherently suspect because in contradiction to the basic human instinct of self-preservation. as in Reik’s analysis. exposure. Brooks concludes. “Guilt can in any event always be produced to meet the demand for confession. and perhaps believing in the confession once it was made. reflect it. is defi ned by the cognitive speech act of confession. as Talmudic law has recognized for millennia. and punishment—the constructed and experiential truth being produced. as Derrida suggests. the ribbon incident never took place. and its concealment can itself be a powerful motive for confession. and the form of subjectivity being produced. the production of incriminating acts to assure punishment or even self-annihilation.”59 If de Man is right and Rousseau purposely stole the ribbon and lied that Marion had given it to him out of the desire for the scene of exposure and the confession which he eventually gets. Whatever its historical roots. guilt. and moreover the shame of having enjoyed making this confession. this would be an instance of guilt being “produced to meet the demand for confession” as Brooks describes it. EXCUSES De Man begins “Excuses (Confessions)” by noting the relation between confessional or autobiographical texts and political texts. unconscious guilt may produce crime in order to assure punishment as the only satisfaction of the guilt. and pleasure. and certainly propositional truth. The Social Contract. the Confessions. While Rousseau’s political text. the very act of confessing. including self-accusation for being in a scene of exposure. What is clear is that in this continual production of shame. would also have produced more guilt and thus the need for or the excuse for the confessions of the Rêveries. Confession may in fact produce masochism and not merely. and instead see the masochistic drive that Freud fi rst theorized as descriptive of the confessional tendencies he found (and helped to inculcate) in the modern subjects he analyzed. as Freud would have it. truth. since there is always more than enough guilt to go around. Similarly. that he desires shame. If truth is nevertheless being produced in that the confessions indicate and inculcate a certain truth about the speaking subject—that he feels guilty. is a masochistic one.

While confessions may or may not refer to verbal events. Here. which would once more excuse Rousseau. and thus refer to something verifiable. Further. with reciprocity and inter-changeability. since. The excuse which Rousseau offers for having stolen the ribbon and for lying that Marion stole it. out of a timid rather than malicious character. “and who would be a dour enough literalist to let a little property stand in the way of young love?”60 We are thus being verbally persuaded to believe in claims about inner feelings. As de Man explains. with no proof beyond itself or its power to persuade. she ought to have been substitutable for him in her reciprocal love. They aim to tell the truth of an event. because he feared shame more than punishment. As de Man notes. it was easy for him to slip into saying that Marion stole the ribbon to give to him. The aim of “Excuses (Confessions)” is to explore this move between cognitive confessions and performative excuses. stole the ribbon to give to Marion. Rousseau tells us that it occurred to him to blame Marion for stealing the ribbon because he intended to give the ribbon to her. . when asked “who stole this ribbon?.” Confessions are said by de Man to be cognitive because they purport simply to establish facts. this time of love and a kind of ontological confusion. love. particularly with respect to the episode of the stolen ribbon as it occurs in the Confessions and “Fourth Rêverie. and these acts may at least in principle be checked. Excuses. the excuse is always purely verbal. de Man argues. a “free signifier. and by persuading the reader of his fundamentally sympathetic character. for Rousseau. and thus she was associated with the ribbon in his mind. is when he shifts from saying that he said “Marion” because she was in his mind as object of his love.” by answering “Marion” Rousseau thought he was answering “Jean-Jacques.” De Man asks. Initially Rousseau claims that he told the lie. Already. as object of his love. since Rousseau loved Marion. we are in the realm of excuses. Thus. even when the act confessed to is a verbal event: one may confess to saying or writing something. is related in Julie to being able to substitute for the other. in both cases ultimately involves a certain reference to a machine-like functioning of sounds and events which functioned beyond his control. to claiming that he acted as a kind of marionette. as de Man says. and that “Marion” was. by referring to his inner feelings of fear and shame.” simply the fi rst word that came into his mind at the moment that he happened to be being asked who stole the ribbon. and maintained it. This is true. however. or are referential. The most interesting of Rousseau’s excuses.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 93 in turn is shown by de Man to be related to the performative function of excusing. thus implying that Marion loved him. deal with the “inner feelings” which accompany the acts which are confessed to. de Man stresses. in a machine-like or arbitrary manner. and we may only take the person’s word for the veracity of an excuse. associated with the ribbon as its intended recipient. In a way. what is being described cannot be confi rmed. on the other hand.

it is not a lie but rather a fiction.”61 In the “Fourth Rêverie. That injustice ensued was no fault of Rousseau’s. Similarly. indeed victimized by the course of events as they mechanistically unfolded.”62 Thus. but useless and harmless. If a statement is strictly speaking untrue. By claiming that “the Confessions are not primarily a confessional text. Rousseau argues that a lie occurs when what is said is signifi cant. Rousseau. arbitrary or unmotivated way. however unbeknownst to her.” de Man points out. so the theft was merely an innocuous gesture. such that he emerges blameless. and thus. and this is indeed crucial to his project of showing the truth not only of his actions but of his inner self. . ] is that the Confessions are not primarily a confessional text. Its utterance. . is concerned with explaining why he acted in this way.”63 Confession. however. . he was saying nothing at all. it was a useless. as seen. or with offering excuses. and this indeed seems to be the case. the bulk of his account. for de Man. but merely a fi ction.” de Man implies that not only in the Marion episode. If the listeners had not misinterpreted the word “Marion” as an answer to their question. which only became a crime because its meaning was mistaken. “The fi rst thing established [by Rousseau’s account of the stolen ribbon in the Confessions] [ . De Man writes. with excusing himself. Rather. to establish the facts of what happened. or rather meaninglessness. just as the word “Marion” was uttered in a machine-like. arbitrary sound. without awareness of any law of ownership. but in general. had they recognized its real meaning. aims merely to tell the truth. as far as Rousseau is concerned. least of all someone’s name. but the result of a misunderstanding. did cause harm and injustice (if we believe that the event ever occurred). by his later sufferings. no harm or injustice would have been done. The excuse surrounding the ribbon episode is not an isolated slippage from cognition to performative. so the theft of the ribbon itself was random and unintentional. Rousseau “took the ribbon out of an unstated and anarchic fact of proximity. another fait oiseux. no lie was told. more so perhaps than Marion. however. and yet this was not Rousseau’s intention. and does some injustice or harm to the self or others. even renders him an innocent victim of events. but rather a regretable consequence of having been misunderstood. De Man argues that in claiming that “Marion” was simply a noise that he happened to utter at the moment he was being questioned about the ribbon. who was at least avenged.94 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Rousseau claims that he “was making whatever noise happened to come into his head. As de Man explains. does not stop at admitting to having stolen a ribbon and lied that it was Marion who stole it. Rousseau is more concerned in the Confessions with excusing himself than with the pure truth-telling of verifiable events. That Rousseau then went on to suffer guilt for years over this mishap. but rather Rousseau consistently exceeds the mere description of occurrences with in-depth accounts of his personality and motivations. just as the lie was really a fi ction. Rousseau assures us.

and this is necessary to his project of “unveiling” his interior self. or that the cognitive and performative moments are inseparable and undecidable. asking forgiveness. who already knows everything. while the Rêveries are preoccupied with excusing their author. but rather one must seek forgiveness at the same time. then. First of all.”68 Derrida goes on in “Typewriter Ribbon” to destabilize distinction between the confessional and apologetic or excusatory modes.”69 Especially if one is confessing to God. In either case. merely informing the other of the facts cannot be the main function of confession. . are predominantly concerned with excuses.”70 In the case of Rousseau it is clear that Derrida is right that the confessant is always simultaneously making excuses. then de Man’s claim is even weaker. “to use two de Manian notions that are here indissociable. describing the abandonment of the third of his five children. still primarily confessional. Derrida notes. as such. ] It designates any grammatical or syntactical discontinuity in which a construction interrupts another before it is completed. “this series of affi rmations does not seem to me always clear and convincing. however. as when. arguing that confessions are always simultaneously excuses.”67 and writes.” as he explains. “I promised my confession. but of course. the idea here seems to be that the excuses offered for the ribbon incident constitute an isolated interruption in the Confessions. That de Man sees the Confessions as basically confessional and the Rêveries as excusatory or apologetic is Derrida’s reading of “Excuses (Confessions). or apologetic. Derrida uses the term “apologetic confession. Derrida observes that I can inform you that I murdered someone without confessing this. . he notes. . which are. I will stop at this point”71. de Man calls the interruption of confession by excuse at this point in the Confessions an anacoluthon.66 and expresses doubt as to “if [he has] understood correctly. but continues to justify himself or to provide excuses for the confessions he has made. but. if all I am doing is reporting the facts of something that happened. for instance if I am pleased with my act (perhaps we are gloating together over the death of our mutual enemy). even if that event could be deemed to be a fault of mine. and so forth. Derrida notes. 65 Despite the earlier claim that the Confessions are not primarily confessional.”64 He calls the anacoluthonic occurrence of excuse in the Confessions “a localized disruption” which becomes “disseminate[d]” in the Rêveries. and at some points Rousseau himself becomes self-conscious that he has shifted from confessing to excusing himself. repenting.” which. always indissociable. For this to be a confession. I am not confessing. he does not stop at this point or at any point. . And not only in Rousseau. may have “striking [ . . If we follow Derrida’s claim that confessions always excuse the confessant. which he defi nes as “a shift. converting the fault into love.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 95 Strangely.” although he also admits to being “perplexed” at this point in de Man’s “difficult” explanation. there must also be an aspect of “excusing oneself. he writes. not my justification. ] epistemological implications. by implication. syntactical or other [ .

and hence the entire realm of confessions for Derrida. for instance. thus requiring that the apologetic-excusatory aspect of confession be present. In the case of Rousseau. narratively.” knowing if a person has lied requires not only knowing whether the claim is true or false. Moreover. but also knowing whether the speaker knew about its truth or falsity. One of the reasons that this point is important is that if all confessions are excusatory. This point is similar to Brooks’s argument about the form of truth involved in confessions. we have to distrust confessions. it seems. the entire Confessions and perhaps all confessions are given in the “apologetic confessional” mode. could be performatively. As Derrida points out in “History of the Lie. and as de Man says all excuses are unverifiable. We may be able to affi rm that the act confessed to is true. but we cannot exactly say that they are lies. slip into excusing what is confessed to. as is the entire realm of excuses for de Man. nor even if they are true or false. although one can always fi nd untruths or errors in confessional texts with respect to events and facts. that Derrida will say even of his own confession. because. or the state of his inner soul at the time that he acted and at the time that he spoke of his act. all confessions should be distrusted. although he is apparently not always trying to tell the truth about historical facts (or else is frequently self-deceived about them).”73 It is for these reasons.” we can in fact never know whether or not any confession is entirely true. while in this section we have seen additional reasons for which . therapeutically. this does not necessarily mean that the author failed to be truthful within the context of his enterprise. or emotionally true of the confessant’s inner soul or as expressions of his psychological needs. A confession is impossible to prove to be a lie since such a proof would necessarily involve knowing not only the truth of a verifiable event as well as the truth of the speaker’s knowledge of that event. confessions will never be fully verifiable.” The confession.96 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault the point to stress is that no anacoluthon occurs when Rousseau offers an excuse for lying about the stolen ribbon. And as Aquinas noted long ago with respect to the difficulty of judging the sincerity of confessional sorrow. are excuses. as Derrida will make clear in “History of the Lie. As such. “a man cannot easily measure his own emotions. he may very well be consistently telling the truth of his “inner self. as Derrida argues. even if factually false. then far from confessions being simple “truth-productions. as you would with any confession. since confessions always involve excuses.”74 In the section above on confessional pleasures it was shown that we do in fact tend to distrust confessions because of the suspicious pleasures that they bring.” if no confession can be verified or known to be true. as Foucault has shown in the case of criminal trials72 . How can we know? Such a claim will always be unverifiable. Or it may not be. but also knowing the speaker’s intentions. For Brooks. “You would have every right to distrust it. but so far as we always also want to understand the confessant’s motivations.

For a Foucaultian or a Freudian this admixture of pleasure. socially. dissenting in Miranda. Here. Foucault explores the effects of coercion in confession in terms of their pleasurableness. a condition that casts some doubt on the law’s language of autonomy and free choice. however. beyond those shown by Foucault. and the need for punishment. or in which confessions are compulsory even if gratifying. of pleasure which is also painful. will note a similar distrust of confessions. humiliating. where the coerciveness of confessions really becomes an issue is in the context of police interrogations and courts of law. for which affects Foucault does not account. Rousseau and Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man provide examples of confessional subjects for whom the psychological portrait is even more complicated because caught up with additional psychic affects such as guilt and shame. Derrida. this time on the part of the law. “even the most indisputably ‘voluntary’ confession may arise from a state of dependency. combined with an account of how external coercion can be internalized as desire and inner compulsion. shame. and de Man. The next section will show why Judge Byron White. This section will consider the ways in which the coercive nature of confession. and indeed where no one wants it. . Judge White claims that “The obvious underpinning of the court’s [Miranda] decision is a deep-seated distrust of all confessions. and psychologically compelled.”76 As Brooks suggests. There is a sense in which confessions are historically. and hence unverifiable. This pleasure is itself part of what compels confession and what masks the manners in which power is functioning. . The previous section has shown that the truths produced in confession may also not be true in propositional content. even in cases such as Rousseau’s or that of the Underground Man in which there is no apparent or external compulsion. the context seems even more coercive than in the case of a . and the tendencies of confessions to untruths. guilt and shame. and that their truth status can never be fully ascertained. ] any confession”: because they are always excusatory. As Brooks notes. Foucault argues that all confessions are coercive because they are the products of disciplinary power. is enough to make us conclude that such confessions are not expressions of a free and rational decision on the subject’s part. COERCION AND THE LAW As seen.”75 It will be shown that the court would have had good reasons for this distrust. and indeed should distrust confessions far more than it in fact does.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 97 Derrida thinks we “would have every right to distrust [ . should undermine our faith in confession as authentic proofs of crime in the realm of law. where no one is asking for the confession. and that all truths produced through confessions are products of this power and thus not free.

for pragmatic reasons police interrogators and court judges feel that they cannot make use of a Foucaultian or a Freudian model of the subject and need “a model of human agents as free and rational decision-makers.”78 Despite Justice O’Connor’s argument that legally-acceptable confessions need to be “the product of a free and rational will. and one of Marshall’s supposed victims testified that Marshall could not be her rapist. and even the suspect’s lawyer assumed his client’s guilt and did not demand further proofs. the police felt no need to take a DNA test after the confession had been made.98 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Rousseau or an Underground Man writing in his solitude. that no one would confess to a crime he had not committed. even in the confession of guilt. a suburb of Québec City. when tests were at last run on the previous assaults they proved that Marshall was innocent of the crimes for which he had served five years. a singularly confessional individual who would claim to remember and then would confess to anything that was suggested to him. in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s words. and hence the confessional compulsion is even greater. a psychoanalyst began inventing and presenting Ingram with stories .” American and Canadian courts have regularly accepted the confessions of persons who could not possibly fit such a description. Marshall’s family.”77 From what has been said so far. Once out of prison Marshall soon confessed to several more incidents of sexual assault. and not only because of the additional police coercion at play in these cases. feeling that Marshall was incapable of the crimes described. as Brooks notes. even if he is mentally handicapped and disturbed. confessed in 1997 to multiple counts of sexual assault for crimes occurring in Saint-Foy. Nevertheless. Ingram would “remember” and sign confessions for all of the stories that his daughters’ lawyers presented to him. and yet. Consequently. it would seem that no confessions should be legally acceptable if the requirement for them is that they be free and rational. and this time DNA tests were taken which showed that he was innocent of the more recent crimes. someone is actively asking for a confession. Here. Indeed. fi nally raising the suspicion that the earlier confessions might also have been false. and yet. and particularly disturbing is the case of Paul Ingram. Brooks discusses many similar cases. Simon Marshall. a mentally handicapped man with a known history of psychological problems. Growing suspicious of the ease with which Ingram confessed to everything suggested to him. Accused by his daughters who had “recovered” memories through psychoanalysis of incest. Marshall was convicted based on his confession and served five years in prison. legally acceptable confessions need to be “the product of a free and rational will. the court did not require it. asked that a DNA test be taken. based on the assumption that confessions are by their very nature authentic. not only because of the coercive nature of confession in general.79 while a similar case has recently occurred in Québec. but also by virtue of the mental state and capacities of the individuals in question: Brooks discusses the case of an American court accepting as voluntary the confession of a delusional schizophrenic.

” such as that Ingram had made his children have sex with each other while he watched.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 99 that Ingram’s children had in fact not “recovered. Ingram. thrust the sword into their bellies or cast themselves down from the roofs. but nevertheless serves his prison time willingly because he is convinced that it is divine punishment. a ruling meant to protect the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate oneself. . to confess and to be punished. Maimonides comments on this aspect of Talmudic law when he writes: It is a scriptural decree that the court shall not put a man to death or flog him on his own admission [of guilt] . Perhaps this was the reason that prompted him to confess to a crime he had not committed. because confession is viewed as the most authentic of proofs. Ingram has now taken back his confessions to having raped his daughters. even if this is to legalize an obstruction to justice. even. . also confessed to participating in satanic rituals during which he sacrificed scores of infants whose corpses he allegedly buried on his property. in order that he be put to death. no such bodies were ever found. abject. . . makes reference to this Talmudic law. although there was no evidence for these crimes other than his daughters’ “recovered memories” and Ingram’s own highly questionable consent to these accounts. to guard oneself from harm. American Supreme Court Justice Jackson. For it is possible that he was confused in mind when he made the confession.80 The Miranda ruling (leading to the Miranda warnings: “you have the right to remain silent. inculcated through religious faith. . contrary to the human instinct to live and to protect oneself. when the suspect is clearly willing to confess to anything. and hence a natural right. Although his property was dug up. Whether or not that act occurred is less important than the psychic need Ingram feels to find objects for his guilt.”). Ingram quickly confessed to these incidents as well and signed the confessions provided for him. similarly. Talmudic law did not allow persons to be incriminated through their own confessions. To sum up the matter. a devote Christian. Perhaps he was one of those who are in misery. agrees with . The accusations were deemed to be true since the suspect confessed to them. the principle that no man is to be declared guilty on his own admission is a divine decree. apparently. nor were there reports of dozens of missing infants in the area. Although clearly Ingram’s confessions were unreliable and many of them were false. and moreover seeing such self-destructive confessions as unnatural. recognizing that they could be untrustworthy testaments. and is thus willing to confess to any act to which that guilt can be fi xed. Here is a case of a man who feels a general sense of guilt. As Brooks observes. what is extraordinary is that the court nevertheless convicted him based on the selected confessions which affi rmed his daughters’ accusations. who long for death. bitter in soul. and thus protects what is seen as a natural instinct.

Although this was what worried Justice Harlan about Miranda. The Court bases its decision on the premise that custody and examination of a prisoner for thirty-six hours is ‘inherently coercive. cites Justice Jackson’s argument that no confession made after arrest or detention is voluntary or uncoerced. Brooks demonstrates that “there is much post-Miranda evidence indicating that the police quickly learned to play by the new rules and that they produced as many confessions as before. The term ‘voluntary’ confession does not mean voluntary in the sense of a confession to a priest merely to rid one’s soul of a sense of guilt. To speak of any confessions of crime made after arrest as being ‘voluntary’ or ‘uncoerced’ is somewhat inaccurate. Justice John Marshall Harlan.”81 If not confessing is “normal” and “instinctual” for Jackson. far from preventing coerced confessions. and so is detention. “It probably is the normal instinct to deny and conceal any shameful or guilty act. in a country where condemnations of suspects by their own words are so desired that 92% .” 84 Brooks goes so far as to offer the “cynical interpretation” that the Court simply “cut the Gordian knot of the problem of voluntariness by saying to the police: if you follow these forms. we’ll allow that the confession you obtained was voluntary. and argues that “the role of the Constitution has been only to sift out undue pressure. And so is custody and detention for one hour. a “normal” person would only confess if he calculated that denying his crime was of no use. A confession is wholly and uncontestably voluntary only if a guilty person gives himself up to the law and becomes his own accuser.100 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Maimonides when he writes that. Arrest itself is inherently coercive. Jackson continues: Even a ‘voluntary confession’ is not likely to be the product of the same motives with which one may volunteer information that does not incriminate or concern him. logically. within a legal context. therefore.”85 The Miranda warnings. and that confessing might actually lead to greater clemency in his case.’ Of course it is.”83 Justice Harlan is thus using the argument that all confessions by suspects are coercive to argue against the Miranda attempt to discount coerced confessions since. For the American legal system. and usually proceed from a belief that further denial is useless and perhaps prejudicial. dissenting in Miranda. not to assure spontaneous confessions.82 According to Jackson. it would seem that to confess voluntarily in a police interrogation and trial would be a sign of a sickly nature. ‘Voluntary confessions’ in criminal law are the product of calculations of a different order. although traditional. simply provided a means for the American legal system to continue producing and making use of coerced confessions without needing to worry their consciences about them since the confessant had been forewarned. this would mean discounting almost all confessions which are used in courts of law.

far less than in North America. eye-witnesses. the refusal to convict criminals based on their confessions has not led to rampant crime in Germany in comparison to the United States. and thus extract them. like Talmudic law. deception. that their fates are already sealed. Even while lying to and threatening suspects in the manners to which this confession refers. however. and. . We also do not need Reik to say that confessions “reveal pathetic dependency and a kind of infantile groveling. German courts. that not confessing is useless.”90 And of course. telling him that the interrogation will not stop until he confesses. and will not convict suspects based on confessions which are not otherwise “convincingly substantiated. to say that many if not all confessions used in law are coerced. to exhaust him. psychic torture. Justice Warren. police interrogators also create a relationship of psychological dependency between the distraught suspect and the police officer questioning him. This can result in confessions such as the following one. . and Brooks notes that “Few other nations are as dependent as ours on proving guilt from a defendant’s own mouth. . to make him psychologically dependent upon his interrogators. and the confessions of other suspects have already incriminated them. . Brooks recounts the “chilling” police interrogation techniques as they are described in police interrogation manuals and the “dramas of humiliation.86 confessions seem too useful to do away with.”88 The American justice system has clearly dismissed such an idea. and lies. In one poignant case of such psychological dependency.” 92 This confession was adequate for the court and the defendant was pronounced guilty as charged.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 101 of felony convictions are by guilty plea. ] I just pleaded guilty because they said if I didn’t they would gas me for it [ . and thus actively seek them. to convince him that his guilt is already proven. an eighteen-year-old named Peter Reilly discovered his mother’s violently . In countries such as the United States and Canada where we consider confessions the “queen of proofs. simple expedient of compelling [confessions] from [the suspect’s] own mouth. according to Brooks. Alford (1970): “I pleaded guilty on second degree murder because they said there is too much evidence. and thus that all they can do is confess and hope that this confession will bring them clemency.” desired in every conviction. we do not even need a Foucaultian or a Freudian model of subjectivity. at least one Justice in the Miranda case. but I ain’t shot no man [ .” because police interrogations regularly and self-consciously put suspects into this state through psychological manipulation.87 Nevertheless. and coercion played out behind the locked door. suggests that the police might use other methods to solve crimes other than the “cruel. as even Brooks seems to agree. telling them that DNA evidence.91 Police interrogators are permitted to lie to their suspects. given in the statement of the defendant in North Carolina v.” in which everything is done to put the suspect at a disadvantage. ] I’m not guilty but I plead guilty. require that confessions be confi rmed by other evidence.”89 Other countries depend on confessions. nor even the arguments of Justices Jackson or Harlan.

. at twenty-two years of age. that unless he confessed “we’ll take you and we’ll lock you up and treat you like an animal. a psychological explanation for his crime. Without any word out of your mouth. Explain yourself. and thus. The officer who interrogated him told Reilly. but to provide insight into his motivations. emotional rather than factual. Foucault considers a contemporary case in which a serial rapist refuses to provide psychological explanations for his acts. although he has freely admitted to having committed the crimes of which he is accused. a confusion of realms. after hours of questioning following directly upon the suspect’s traumatic discovery of his mother’s body. the Indiana police decided to stop recording their interrogations. for the Lieutenant who took over his interrogation told him. “We have. . and during which Reilly denied the crime.95 bearing witness more surely to an emotive or performative truth than to a propositional truth. but.” -Silence. You are the one who has the keys to your own actions. Beyond illustrating the psychological dependency which interrogation creates. do such violent urges overtake you? You must make an effort to analyze yourself. . Reilly asked his interrogator whether he could live with the police officer’s family now that he had lost his mother.”93 As a result of these interrogation methods. Reilly’s case also shows the tactic of lying to the suspect that his fate is already sealed. in Brooks’s words. We want the criminal to not only admit to what he did. which can be ascertained to be true or false.94 It has been argued that in general even the most apparently voluntary confessions are. proof positive that you did it. Because the problematic nature of these recorded interrogations contributed to the eventual acquittal of Reilly. to use Derrida’s terms. right now. an excuse or explanation as well as an admission of acts. it grinds to a perplexed halt.” In response. allowing “psychotherapeutic truth” to function “as putatively legal truth represents a dangerous category error. Reilly gave in to his interrogator’s insistence that he confess. or only turn on the tape recorder when the suspect is ready to confess. his only living relative. . In “The Dangerous Individual. only to be proven innocent years later. as Brooks puts it.102 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault murdered body and called an ambulance and the police. what we want is never merely a confession to acts.” Foucault argues that if the court today does not receive confessions in the apologetic-excusatory mode. such that the suspect may confess as if to an abusive parent in order to please him and to bring the interrogation to an end. Foucault describes the questioning of the accused by the judge: “Have you tried to reflect upon your case?” -Silence “Why. a statement given in the “apologetic confessional” mode. but immediately found himself being interrogated as the prime suspect in his mother’s death.”96 Indeed. and was thus condemned for murder. and had no where else to go.

however. and that we should in practice rely on and thus seek them out far less than we do. The lack of voluntariness involved in such confessions. the truths that confessions can provide. despite psychiatric interrogations. Drawing on this lack of knowledge of his client’s psyche. If we gave up the assumption that confessions bear a special stamp of authenticity. without confession not merely to the crime but to the criminal’s state of mind when he committed the crime and afterwards (contrition or lack thereof). This is particularly true of confessions given after arrest. a court only needed to established that the accused had committed a crime and pass the sentence which corresponded to that crime. Then a juror took over and cried out. . then police interrogators would seek confessions with less zeal and would thus avoid placing additional coercions on an already inherently coercive form of discourse. Today. In particular.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 103 “Would you do it again?” -Silence. or at least that they bear witness to the authenticity of propositional truths. but for which he had not explained his motivations. there is a third factor: the criminal. as even a few Supreme Court Justices have seen. in which the criminal’s refusal to engage in self-examination resulted in a multitude of conflicting psychiatric reports and reversals of sentences. to be discussed in Chapter Five. defend yourself!”97 Foucault observes that one hundred and fi fty years earlier this could never have happened during a trial. should cast into doubt the truth of confessions in the realm of law. the defense lawyer asked the jury: “Can one condemn to death a person one does not know?”98 These examples show that without selfexamination on the part of the accused. Two factors were thus involved: the crime and the punishment. Given that legal confessions need to explain not only acts but motivations. In another instance of the stand-still that trials come to following failure on the criminal’s part to provide psychological discourse. Foucault discusses the example of a man who risked being executed for murders to which he had admitted. “For heaven’s sake. and consequently the accused must answer the question: “Who are you?. are not the kinds of proofs that the law requires. The chaos which arises when a criminal fails to confess—or confesses to a crime but not to his motivations—is also seen in the case of Pierre Rivière. Prior to the birth of psychiatry. the law can no longer process criminals or perform its role as this has come to be defi ned. if they can provide any assurance of truth at all. the motivations of the criminal must be understood. the “overbearing of the will”99 such that it breaks beneath the pressures of its own psychic affects and the manipulations of its interrogators. We should question the assumption that confessions are the “queen of proofs” and think that they may on the contrary be the least stable of all proofs. and moreover most confessions cannot meet the standard of having been produced by free and rational minds or of being voluntary.” or the court cannot proceed.

If she had written about herself autobiographically in a similarly transformative manner. As such. in many other cases innocent persons would be spared prison time for crimes they had not committed. perhaps in her case she would have been producing herself in his eyes and in her own as someone more interesting and erotically empowered than she experienced herself to be in her real life. If we return to Foucault’s notion that confession is to tell the truth about the self to another. In other cases. If the confessant in Confidences Trop Intimes had turned out to be making a false confession to her confessor. In Marshall’s case. it would seem that the self being produced is a self-destructive one. If in some cases not accepting confessions as proofs in themselves resulted in guilty persons being set free. a false confession being accepted as incontestable truth not only led to the conviction of an innocent person but also took police off the track of the truly guilty party or parties. If other proofs were required to convict a suspect. and perhaps even a gain for the woman writer had taken place. and so we might want to ask what kind of subject such false confessions are producing. including excuses and apologies. we may think it was not a negative self-construction on the part of the confessant. and in still other cases police would be required to continue their inquiries and would find other proofs. and thus convict the right person. the truth told is arguably nevertheless one that becomes determinative of the speaking subject. we might think there was no harm done at all. Although this may have been harmful for her confessor who became emotionally invested in her confessions. an instance of aesthetic self-fashioning. however. whether that person turned out to be the confessant or not. should never be heard in a legal context. or counter-proofs. but that they should never be considered sufficient proof of a suspect’s guilt. the police would have had to take a DNA test and would have realized that he was innocent of the crimes to which he had confessed. a rapist or several rapists remain unapprehended in this case in what is perhaps a direct result of the law’s credulity in confessions as proofs of propositional truth. As such. and argue that this occurs in a narrative or therapeutic or emotive sense of truth in the case of false confessions. and in all cases where the confessant confesses to a false guilt and false victimization in the realm of law. in psychotherapeutic and autobiographical confessions to false guilt and to false victimization. AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SPIRALS OF DISPLEASURE AND DESPAIR In the fi rst section it was seen that Foucault writes of confession in terms of “perpetual spirals of pleasure and power” as well as truth-production. . Simon Marshall’s confession to multiple counts of sexual assault in Saint-Foy would have been taken as evidence but not as definitive proof of guilt. after all.104 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault The suggestion being made is not that confessions. but was positively self-transformative.

Anna O. and not only of pleasure and power. The repetitive or spiraling nature of confession is apparent in de Man’s and Derrida’s readings of the ribbon incident in Rousseau. in this very early work Freud and Breuer would like to argue that confession is curative and hence not inclined to spiral on forever. not only because it needed in this way to be constantly renewed. and pleasure. seemingly interminably.” as Derrida. The talking cure indeed seems to fail in the case of Anna O. producing new symptoms that needed to be confessed away as quickly as Breuer could relieve her of them. shaking with fear and horror. but so long as she remained in Breuer’s care and thus in the confessional mode.” even though. the need for confession was self-perpetuating and coincided with her psychic deterioration. is described after a session of “chimney sweeping” or the “talking cure” as “amiable and cheerful. she had reproduced these frightful images and given verbal utterance to them. As Breuer writes of Anna O. borrowing from Deleuze. Shame and guilt require confession. always needed to confess again. to taking pleasure in shame. This “desiring machine.”101 Nevertheless. so far as Breuer could tell. she nevertheless continued to deteriorate. Confession was described as a mechanistic production of shame. although confessing is described as cathartic and therapeutic.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 105 Having nuanced his arguments about the truth of confessions. but because even when..” and two days after chimney sweeping she would be “positively ‘nasty. A similar spiraling confessional mechanism which shows its discontents as well as its pleasures is described by Freud and Breuer in their study of hysteria and description of the “talking cure. The significance of this attention to the spiraling displeasure of confession is that it shows the ways in which confession fails to bring about the catharsis and psychic health which it is often promised to provide. in this section I would like to question his claims about confessional pleasure. a day later she would be “more irritable and less agreeable. nothing was left “‘stuck’”103 in her psyche. for instance: “I have already described how completely her mind was relieved when.’”102 As Breuer explains. While the confessional relation between Anna O. and Breuer brought initial pleasure to both parties—and this is where Foucault leaves off—the pain or displeasurable effect of confession in Anna O.”100 Anna O. with new traumas and symptoms continually being produced if not talked off again.’s case is also apparent. This section will look at autobiographical writings in order to argue that the perpetual spiralings of confession may be spirals of displeasure and despair.” and as such. . The talking cure did not cure Anna O. and hence the need and the desire for more confession. guilt. functions en abîme. as one can confess even to the pleasures one took in one’s confessions. has called it. “Her moral state was a function of the time that had elapsed since her last utterance. becoming suicidal as well as hysterical. while confession produces more shame and guilt and pleasure in this shame and guilt.. in which it betrays the speaking subject and leaves her in despair. and to inventing confessions in order to produce this pleasurable shame.

107 Although Freud still maintained that the causes of neuroses were to be found in a patient’s earliest years. Freud did not need to have patients remember what had been repressed in the past because it was being articulated through the patient’s behavior towards him in the present. and Freud could thus use the patient’s current behavior to explain what he suspected to be true of her past.”105 and as early as “Remembering. he soon realized that the repetition compulsion and transference were not only obstacles but also the means to the patient’s cure.106 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault While this is where Foucault leaves off the discussion of confession. Following these realizations. showing the patient’s ongoing attachment to her neurotic behavior and pattern of relationships. or that neurotic symptoms could not so easily be “talked off. and thus he could deduce it directly from the analysand’s clinical responses. According to post-“talking cure” Freudian theory.’s case. In other words. patients are not getting rid of their past traumas by talking about them. and repeated this repressed event not only in their current relationships and activities but in their relationship with the analyst himself. symptoms persist and may be exasperated following confession. as if it had been a success104. He recognized that the simple act of confession did not result in catharsis and cure. Symptom. patients could be made to recognize what they were saying and doing by way of the performative processes of resistance and transference which were manifested in the course of analysis. Although he would consistently refer back to the case of Anna O. and that infantile sexual development and relations with parents were crucial. and Working Through. As such.” As in Anna O.108 However because repetition and transference also gave Freud access to repressed material as it was being reactivated in the present. and patients may degenerate in the course of confessional treatment. he no longer tried to make his patients remember the past directly or through hypnosis and suggestion. Because the repetition compulsion and transference are resistances to being cured. therefore. Repeating. and Fear” that he had long since “abandoned the abreaction theory. Freud would write in “Inhibition. and describes his own method of engaging not primarily with the patient’s past but with her resistances to treatment in the present. Freud in fact quickly came to realize that the problems and ultimate failure which arose in this treatment characterized the supposedly cathartic cure generally. producing various forms of resistance to their cure.” he would remind the reader that psychoanalysis had changed profoundly since its early days in which it had assumed a theory of catharsis or abreaction. as expressions of self-destructive impulses or the death drive. or are continually replaced with new symptoms. . Freud pushes further. he saw that through the repetition compulsion patients repeat whatever troubling event had been repressed in the past. Freud had initially seen these interrelated phenomena as obstacles to psychoanalytic treatment. Rather.106 By 1914 Freud distances himself from this initial “phase of catharsis” by passing it off as Breuer’s practice alone.

crucially. and that confession. confession is no longer seen as therapeutic in itself. or of which we are ashamed. In fact. if not interpreted and worked through correctly.”109 Most post-Freudian psychoanalytic theory continues to uphold that confession in itself is not straight-forwardly therapeutic. “Repressed” now simply means anything which we desire/hesitate to talk about. death-driven manner to the source of psychic harm. in the course of therapy itself. among other phenomena. may resist catharsis.” Within this more sophisticated notion of the psychoanalytic cure. which is endlessly used as a justification for the publication of confessional memoirs. is still contained within it as its nucleus.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 107 but can simply talk about the present and interact with their physician and in so doing can be observed repeating and reactivating the past in their present relationships and. As such. and then in the continued course of analysis what has been deduced in this way can be interpreted and “worked through. but she acts it out. Rather. and Freud has simply realized that the path to these desideratums is longer and more circuitous than he had initially assumed. but is situated as an intermediate stage between acting out and working through. may result in downward spirals of displeasure rather than in instantly gratifying healing. for public testimonials to various forms of trauma. It was not enough. This is quite different from the use of the term in Freud. but of which we are nevertheless aware and to which we can therefore confess if we simply muster up the strength. Confession is neither the start nor the end of the psychoanalytic cure. returning in a masochistic. for whom the “repressed” refers strictly to material located in . as a means of repeating the past. Confession is thus no longer a miracle cure. As Freud writes in “A Short Account of Psycho-analysis”: “The cathartic method was the immediate precursor of psycho-analysis. However remembering and catharsis are still the eventual aim of psychoanalysis. to simply have the patient remember by either hypnotizing her or by informing her of an interpretation and achieving her consent. in spite of every extension of experience and of every modification of theory. the patient must recognize the manners in which she is continuing to act out the past. and this richer form of remembering must be worked out through ongoing analysis. and. Confession is understood in psychoanalysis to be only one aspect of a cure which takes place through a more complicated and time-consuming process of transference and its interpretation. It is nevertheless Freud and Breuer’s earlier notion of “chimney sweeping” and the “talking cure”—or of confession as instant pleasure and cure—which characterizes the modern understanding of confession. for instance. The analyst can then explain her acting out to her. but nor is it eliminated from psychoanalytic practice altogether. It is also worth noting that the term “repressed” is necessarily understood in contemporary versions of the “talking cure” such as these in a strictly non-psychoanalytic sense. confession. and for confessional talk shows. the patient does not necessarily remember what she has repressed.

It is often this popular use of the term “repression.” and he wonders if in expressing and confronting these memories in writing he will be able to rid himself of them. too. despite psychoanalytic developments. The Underground Man writes that “there are things. but a punishment and an expiation. clearing out the psyche. I’ll get rid of it. or unburdening the mind of its difficult but not unconscious memories. one of them detaches itself from the mass and starts tormenting me. which Foucault describes in his discussion of the “repressive hypothesis. . I’m particularly oppressed by an old memory. But I must get rid of it. but also precedes Freud. that the very process of writing things down will relieve me somewhat. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground suggests but then rejects a catharsis theory of confession. thirty-five years prior to The Studies on Hysteria.113 . so it isn’t literature.” 111 Finding an outlet to emotion was understood to have a medicinal effect upon the body. However. I feel that if I write it down. that a man won’t dare to admit even to himself. He writes: It is possible. allowing it to forget and to move on. since then. I have many unpleasant memories.” and not the technical psychoanalytic use. and as such a general notion of the “talking cure” would have been intuitively compelling in the nineteenth century. it’s been like an exasperating tune that I can’t get out of my head. and from time to time. abreacting its neuroses. I’ve at least felt ashamed all the time I’ve been writing this story. “a medicalized version of the Aristotelian cathartic theory of tragedy” was “very much in fashion in Vienna in the early 1880s: the purifying (Aristotle’s ‘cathartic’) function of tragedy was seen to be directly curative of the body. though also already refuted.110 Psychoanalytic terms such as catharsis and repression are thus mobilized as scientific or medically-sanctioned excuses to confess. I have hundreds of such memories. after all these years. but [ . while. it perseveres in contemporary autobiographical practices. too. ] why not stop these notes right here? I feel it was a mistake to start writing them in the first place. Why not try?112 Later the Underground Man writes: Even now. Bertha Pappenheim. her mother. and Freud simply tapped into this notion in their first attempts to theorize psychoanalysis. The idea of “chimney sweeping” through confession is already present. this memory remains strangely vivid and unpleasant. and yet this usage involves a gratifying misunderstanding of psychoanalytic theory and terminology. for instance.” The notion that confession has an immediate medicinal effect. Today. It came back to me clearly a few days ago and. is a kind of “common sense” notion that not only perseveres long after Freud’s rejection of it. . Breuer. According to Appignanesi and Forrester.108 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault the unconscious. in Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground.

and its tendency instead to cause repetition and despair.”115 Humiliation. writes confessional books which she consistently describes as painful to write and shameful to expose to the public. he writes. and hatred. Similarly. it does not actually work in this way. She describes herself as needing to believe that she will accidentally die before the book becomes public in order to bear the mortification of exposure.” the discoverer of his confessions adds a note: “Actually the notes of this lover of paradoxes do not end here. “But that’s enough. almost fell sick with despair. deteriorated even as she went on confessing in her belief in a talking cure. humiliation. and so he suggests that he might “stop these notes right here. without cure. the idea seeming to be that by confessing to his shameful deeds. I’ve had enough of writing these Notes from Underground.117 the publication of books which she says will make the regard of the other impossible to her. when the Underground Man humiliates the prostitute Liza. without audience.” More contemporary autobiographers have equivocated in a way similar to Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man with respect to the ability of confessional writing to console tormented souls. the Underground Man is saying that he might as well stop writing his confessions. and despite his realization and acknowledgement that confession serves neither as catharsis nor as purification. The contemporary French author Annie Ernaux. as Anna O. But we are of the opinion that one might just as well stop here. however. he soothes his guilty conscience by writing that her humiliation will at least serve as a “purification” for her.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 109 The humiliation of confession is related to a quasi-religious penance. presents confession as a repetition compulsion. but merely makes the writing or speaking subject sick and despairing. a failure to resist: “he couldn’t resist and went on writing. Ernaux writes that ending the book causes her anxiety . and yet.” 116 As such.114 A moment later. for instance the humiliation of confession. for instance. saying. at that time. the Underground Man will rid himself of them. an expiation. is thus argued to be redemptive or expiatory in these two passages. “I must also add that I was very pleased with my phrase about the beneficient effect of insult.” Nevertheless. Although he claims to regret what he has written so far. and have ultimately observed and demonstrated the same failure of confession to bring relief or closure. we see that the narrator confesses despite his attempts to resist. as is immediately apparent in both cases. humiliating himself. the Underground Man goes on confessing.118 and which she sees as having shamed her family and even her region of France as well as herself. purifying the person who suffers it. and there is very little pleasure involved in the Underground Man’s notes: the narrator nearly falls sick with despair over his mortification rather than being cured or purified by it. and so apparently this expiation is doing nothing to relieve him of his torturous thoughts. The fact that the Underground Man goes on confessing despite his realization of its effect on him. although I myself.119 At the end of Passion simple. in the same breath. And yet. He couldn’t resist and went on writing.

”127 The confessions of others are similarly recognized by Ernaux to be selfdestructive and to bring judgments of shame upon them. We see this again in Ernaux’s repeated tellings of her father’s attempted murder of her mother. although she tells us that fi nancially she is not required to.110 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault because it means that she will now have to let others judge her actions. of all that was a story of flesh and love. and fi nally in publishing it. and. and writing confessionally is a means of giving to the other in order to receive love in return. this bottomless lack of realization of love. and yet this recognition does not succeed in preventing her from making her own confessions . that they were unable to receive this thing. of the abortion. an unsolicited and unwanted gift: “Each of them became quiet after having heard me. I saw that I had committed an error. despite her former regrets over telling this story and her recognition that it has functioned only destructively in the past. for instance. in the hopes of receiving love in return for her confessional offering. Now that I am at the end of this necessity. making her ashamed: “To continue.” despite the fact that the confession was undesired and received badly by the men she told. “is also to push back the anxiety of giving this to others to read. pushed by my old taste for destruction [ . she had offered this nearlyunspeakable memory only to three men whom she had loved.” “dangerous. a gift of love. I did not worry about this eventuality.”125 The confession is sometimes understood as a gift by Ernaux.”124 She thus perceives herself as writing because she lacks love.” as requiring courage to write and to make public. as though she had no choice but to write and expose them. ] Something to frighten him.”126 In each case. the lover is made uncomfortable by the offering of Ernaux’s confession.”123 Writing is seen as enabling Ernaux to bear memories which might otherwise have been intolerable. Ernaux has frequently sought to explain her confessional compulsion and the effects which this writing has on her. We see. I look at the written pages with surprise and a kind of shame. for instance. “I know too well that what makes me write is that. and yet she persists in telling it to her next lover. of parental love. to be able to say and to bear the memory of 58. Later.” and “hazardous. In any case. as she says later: “I write in order to be loved. .”120 The writing of these books is described by Ernaux as “difficult.121 and yet is also described as written through an inner compulsion. as if writing replaced love. she writes. In Se perdre. for instance. Ernaux writes: “Writing was only to fi ll the emptiness.” she writes. She does so. . So long as I was in the necessity of writing. prior to writing the book. he left right afterwards. which confession forms the basis of La honte: Ernaux tells us both in La honte and in Se perdre that. and that “This confession was a sign of my love. or lacked the strength to resist. Having told a third lover of her father’s act.122 Given the pain which writing and publishing her writings evidently causes her. that she writes of the “necessity of writing.” and presumes that it is equally necessary to publish. she records in her journal: “I have the impression of having done today all that should not be done.

According to Ernaux. and consequently be freed of the lover and of the memories which painfully torment her. In this instance.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 111 public: for instance. for instance.128 Ernaux worries at the time that if she similarly admitted to strangers the degrading and self-destructive passion for a man that she is experiencing.”131 and as such in writing she will understand. and yet now we see that she also writes to achieve a form of therapeutic catharsis. we see that by telling or writing a memory. like Rousseau. almost incongruous. she writes.” is attracted to her because she is a celebrated author. It has become a scene for others. to get rid of rather than to get. I entirely cease to remember it. “I have ceased to want to write for him. which allows the subject to contain and separate herself from the event and subsequently to begin to heal. whether a distant lover or a deceased loved one.”132 Previously we saw that she had been writing for a lover.” and the manner in which the people in the salon distance themselves from the woman after her confession. “Knowledge always frees. and yet she publishes the account of this humiliating passion as well as the diaries from the period. How this process of writing to forget and to detach is believed to function is elaborated in La honte: Perhaps the narrative.”129 as if by writing about him she will necessarily be unable to keep him. For instance. that “A. furthermore. renders normal any act. despite the fact that. or to be loved. In alternative explanations for her compulsion to write her memories. I want to write to forget him. is it possible?. to sever herself from the object of her unhappy love. all narratives. and to write. the words that I have used to describe it seem strange to me. beyond those that I told to lovers. far from being loved.133 In a process familiar to trauma theory. Ernaux writes in order to retain her deceased parents and her memories of them. as soon as I commit its burden to paper it deserts me. believing. Like Rousseau who claimed that “memory only serves me so long as I need to rely on it. she will frequently return to the subject described and thus the claim to forget upon writing is obviously false. she will find herself to be similarly estranged.134 The attempted murder scene described in La honte is called by Ernaux “the terror without words”135 while her debilitating obsession for . she states. including the most dramatic.”130 Ernaux assumes here that the act of writing will entail an involuntary forgetting. and once I have written a thing down. to detach myself from him. “What will this notebook bring me? I want to keep S. writing is once more seen as a means to get and to keep the elusive other. At one point in Se perdre. it is said to be externalized and brought under control. in Passion simple. In La place and Une femme. But because I have always had this scene in me like an image without words or phrases. Ernaux claims that she writes to forget and to sever herself from past events and people. Ernaux describes a woman at the hairdresser’s who admits that she is being “treated for nerves.

normal. we see that something without words or name is terrifying. For instance. Ernaux casts doubt on the idea that writing has helped her to forget. which seems to be what she requires. written after Se perdre. and having at times . and healed through it. to friends and admirers. we fi nd that Ernaux compulsively confesses her abortion to friends and classmates. at the end of Se perdre. She writes. a process of finding names and words for experiences. to a doctor (after the point at which his services could be required). and. my friend! Hats off!’”140 Ernaux also has the opportunity to discuss her experience with another woman who has also illegally aborted at the peril of her life. who leads an existence in a cold city that is impossible for me to imagine. “When he realized the meaning of my words. I even wonder if it is not the domain of the worst alienation. his eyes dilated on me. however. prey to a fascination for my memory which I always rediscover in men. and to a priest. He repeated. whose foreign accent. While we may think that this need to tell the story again is explained by the fact that her confession was repeatedly received badly by her lovers. since Ernaux felt the need to tell it again in book form. in this fi nal analysis. writing. into question when she writes: “I am no longer even sure that freedom exists in writing. externalized. shared by proponents of art therapy and trauma theory.112 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault “S. in which she describes it as remaining traumatic and unutterable despite the previous confessions. She writes: “writing does not prevent me. just as trauma is said to be experienced as outside of language. into something containable. According to Ernaux. and hence extraordinary. whose skin I no longer touch. Ernaux goes on to publish Les armoires vides. to feel the absence of the man whose voice. thus making her family and community aware of what they could only suspect was an autobiographical account of her abortion. the horrors of what has been lived return.”138 Writing. he ceased to move. renders something that seemed beyond language. the minute I stop. to some degree. disoriented.” in Se perdre is repeatedly referred to as “the terror without name”136: in both cases. In Passion simple. I no longer hear. reopening and inflaming wounds rather than healing them. ‘hats off. may only force the author to revisit a trauma repeatedly. Judging from a study of Ernaux’s autobiographical works. the case of Ernaux’s similarly repeated confession of her abortion seems to prove wrong the suggestion that fi nding good listeners could stop Ernaux from confessing again. where the past. in the end she fi nds a male classmate who admires her for her courage to abort. Ernaux puts the assumption that expression heals. Having confessed to authorities and to family. “We compared our abortions with jubilation. In L’événement.139 Although in these cases she does not always receive a satisfying reception to her tale. captured by an invisible scene.”137 Similarly. Ernaux writes. this last explanation would seem to be the case.”141 Nevertheless. and thus had not satisfied the need for expression. and in the traditional forum of the Catholic confessional. telling the attempted murder confession of La honte to several lovers did not function to heal it.

Nevertheless. Moreover. a manifestation of the death drive. the same desires. Despite her claim that men are always fascinated by her abortion story. [ .’ which will disappear”148. one moves towards the winter. “It needs no doubt to be said one day how much a woman of forty-eight to fi fty-two years feels close to her adolescence. and it is 58. as in Sées. “I would be ready to fall again into the same favola. She admits that she has continued to behave and feel the same way. Ernaux draws attention to the fact that although each book claims to have been a process of healing. ‘this fatigue which is a bit of him. and admits that she has experienced it as such before. reliving and reconstructing the same painful experiences. To take but a few examples. Since the age of sixteen. . ] So little changed”146. and that she has not changed over time: in other words. she confesses the abortion to her current lover. “The cycle begins again. If indeed confessional expression such as self-writing.”149. While these cases can hardly be conclusive in refuting the early and pop psychoanalytic model of a talking or writing cure.”147. which return. inexorably. “I haven’t changed.”145. she goes on to publish a second and more obviously autobiographical account of the abortion in L’événement. or at P. [ . I have been familiar with this. I am that girl who believes in happiness. “I am in the depths of despair. 63. a desire to return to a prior state. not only in writing and telling them but in her actions. The same waiting. later books show that the wounds are not healed and the patterns of behavior are not left behind. .Confession and Modern Subjectivity 113 found good listeners. we see in Se perdre that Ernaux nevertheless continues to have nightmares related to the death of the fetus.”143. Ernaux writes: “I make the same mistakes as before”142. “So little changed. as in London. Ernaux goes so far as to schematize the pattern which she consistently follows: (I feel so badly that I search my memory for similar moments. who waits and suffers. “I haven’t changed. truly functioned to liberate and to heal.”150 Finally.’s. for someone else. ] My relations with men follow this invincible path: a) initial indifference. perhaps. in 60. this self-avowed repetition can only be deemed surprising. in which Ernaux engages almost exclusively. “the same atrocious tension. I feel as after Saint-Hilaire-du-Trouvet. but instead of moving towards the summer. I cry vaguely. this man immediately leaves in such a manner that Ernaux experiences her compulsion to confess as self-destructive. one cannot help but be struck in reading Ernaux’s journals by the very frequency with which this singularly confessional subject notes that she is repeating the experiences of her life. the same phrase came to me. . as Brooks suggests. tonight. .”144. who once more causes Ernaux to regret her act of confidence. read disgust b) more or less physical “illumination” . in 84. and we might wonder if confession is not after all.

We exposed our insides. with even some periods of boredom d) pain. before arriving at the most perfect: indifference. ]”158. Ernaux feels that her lover A. or the Underground Man.”153 Later. .”155 Describing leaving Nova with him that night.”154 Like Ernaux. any more than it proved successful in attaining love for her. . . while in Folle the success of Arcan’s previous confessional work. contributed to this destruction and loss: “Later I told myself that at Nova you must have thought about whores including ex-whores like me the same thing as everyone else. . but that this eventually fails.114 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault c) happy understandings. the information created confusion between us. increasing the pain. . ]”159 As . you knew me by reputation. “At Nova we talked a lot and perhaps too much. ]”157. ] You said things which are not made to be said [ . she imagines. we showed each other our interior ugliness [ . . e) and the last stage is separation. Arcan suggests that she may have used her confessional writing as a means of attaining love for the self exposed.152 Nelly Arcan. and any more than confessional speech helped Anna O.) 151 We might thus take seriously Ernaux’s doubt that writing in any way liberated the writer from the memory and pattern of events written.”156 But if her confessional writing and persona is thought initially to win her love. People who say too much don’t think about what they say [ . is attracted to her because she is a famous confessional writer. She writes: “When you saw me that evening at Nova I had an advantage over you because you already knew who I was. “Both of us talked too much. you also knew that I’d written a book and that it had sold [ . I have not felt it to this day. . makes her known to her lover before she meets him. one puts the noose around one’s neck. fairly controlled. . you were happy. you had Nelly Arcan at your side. ]. bottomless lack And there comes the moment—I am there—where the pain is so pregnant that the moments of happiness are nothing but future pains. Nevertheless. contributes to her attractiveness in his eyes. where she writes: “It is often said that confessions soothe. comes to similar conclusions in her second book. . who describes her years as a prostitute in Montréal in the confessional récit Putain. beginning with what her lover knew about her from her confessional book Putain. one alienates oneself instead. that in front of a whore you can say anything [ . Folle. You knew that I had been a whore. only to fi nd later that he is repelled by her confessions. she writes: “You also found me beautiful. she makes the point more emphatically: “It seems to me that one liberates nothing at all in writing. and. and Arcan frequently underscores the manners in which too much confession. . Putain. Folle is about the destructive loss of that love.

are indeed. confession in Arcan’s work is shown to repel the other when it is meant to seduce. . humiliation and despair.” Derrida writes that he is “fatigued like truth. While I have been focusing on the repetitions and displeasures of confession for the confessant in order to undermine the assumption that confession is cathartic or consolatory. how badly I put up with them [ . ]. for the one who may be made to bear witness to confessional scenes which are often. even Foucault’s own predictions of the workings of confession as bound up with pleasure and seduction are shown in these and in many cases to fail or to be exceeded. If you only knew how fatigued I feel at these revelations and unveilings. As such.Confession and Modern Subjectivity 115 for Ernaux. only to fi nd out too late that we have not intrigued the other but repelled her. complications. in excess of any attempts to predict or to control them. . exhausted from knowing it. in a state of shame. for too long [ . . abject. or exasperated her in the way which Derrida suggests. show the manner in which we may believe what Foucault writes about the seductiveness and erotic pleasures of confession at our peril. the would-be seducer. explications of its revelations or unveilings. but it may also be displeasurable and undesirable for the one who listens. including the spiralings of power involved in confession. In “A silkworm of one’s own. .”160 The situations which Ernaux and Arcan describe. leaving the confessant. as Foucault would have it. in which their confessions are used as seduction attempts which go terribly wrong. Ernaux’s and Arcan’s texts also raise a fi nal point according to which Foucault’s account of the “perpetual spirals of pleasure and power” needs to be nuanced. Not only may confession lead to the speaker’s displeasure. how many I have had to put up with. ] explications. The workings of power. as Freud himself quickly realized. as Brooks argues and as Dostoyevsky perhaps shows best. and this spoils our own pleasure as well. That is: it is not the case that confession is always a pleasurably spiraling relation for the confessor any more than it is for the confessant. .

including.”2 Nevertheless. once more. and yet even in this book Foucault rarely mentions Freud or any other psychoanalytic theorist by name: Freud is named eight times. —Michel Foucault. unlike psychiatry it is never discussed in depth. . and Wilhelm Reich is mentioned twice. discourse and subjectivity. although psychoanalysis is frequently mentioned in passing. and then only in the rhetorical flourishes of his concluding remarks. or of the diffuse effects of the psychological disciplines on all aspects of modern occidental society. including his studies of confession. and psychoanalysis. Despite the significance of the notion of a “repressive hypothesis” in this work. c’est de tuer la psychologie [ . A critique of psychology. but the discussion is each time fleeting and superficial. Foucault does not engage with psychoanalytic texts on repression and the unconscious. in the last few pages of the book. for instance. Foucault’s ongoing critique of psychoanalysis is most explicit in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. . ] Si on ne peut pas arriver à faire ça dans la vie. Freud puts in an appearance only on the second to last page of The Birth of the Clinic. psychiatry. drawing less on Freud’s metapsychology than on the manners in which a more general understanding of these notions has been deployed throughout modern occidental society. While psychoanalysis is apparently treated marginally in works such as Madness and Civilization and The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. and thus. “Conversation avec Werner Schroeter”1 This chapter will consider what Foucault sees as among the paradigmatic causes and activities of the “confessing animal”: psychoanalysis. with the exception of a few passing remarks. elle ne mérite pas d’être vécue. runs through almost all of Foucault’s works. In many of Foucault’s books psychoanalysis is mentioned only in the fi nal few pages of the work.3 Psychoanalysis L’art de vivre. and Todd May has stated that the “critique of psychology is a leitmotif in Foucault’s texts. and in the last five pages of Maladie mentale et psychologie. . while in Madness and Civilization Foucault leaves off just at the moment in history when psychoanalysis is born and Freud begins. Freud is discussed only in the fi nal three pages of the work.

Finding alternatives to the psychoanalytic subject and psychoanalytic discourses on sexuality—or. Toews adds that Foucault’s critique of psychoanalysis “operate[s] at a very high level of abstraction. and there is a danger in that. the ultimate product of all the problematic disciplinary practices he has described. or perhaps denied. In “Foucault and the Freudian Subject. Although Foucault seems more concerned with psychiatry than psychoanalysis. what is almost the same thing. The self-reflective and critical dimensions of psychoanalytic texts are often lost. in this reduction to discursive regularities.” John E. Because of his constant struggle to integrate psychoanalysis as a scientific discourse and a set of institutionalized practices into the confi nes of a world that could now be mapped from the outside. psychoanalysis is consistently described throughout Foucault’s career as a logical extension of psychiatry. to modern subjectivity and discourses on sexuality—is the motivation behind Foucault’s last two works. psychoanalysis is presented as the culmination and epitomization of the genealogy of the modern subject that Foucault has provided. for it is to Freud that Foucault addresses his fi nal words and thus psychoanalysis which is the end point of these and other studies. Foucault declines to discuss in any depth. but in which non-Freudian models of subjectivity and sexuality are explored.Psychoanalysis 117 it is arguably also central to both of these books. and thus the Freudian subject is perhaps their impetus even if Freud is this time not even named. but which. and is thus perhaps the more dangerous of the two. including Christian confession. Toews acknowledges that “Foucault’s focus on the problem of subject construction within the discourses of the human sciences and science of sexuality has proven enormously illuminating in situating psychoanalysis within its own time and culture. Foucault paid little attention to the particular differences through which the Freudian texts established their own discursive reality. As the concluding figure of several of Foucault’s books. or as an even more subtle and pervasive form of psychological discipline. and particularly how the assimilation and reproduction of the inherited ‘apparatus’ of power/knowledge relations was actually ‘problematized’ and reconstructed in the thinking and writing of the processes of textualization. whose contingency has been shown.”3 However.”4 Toews goes on to argue that: The great lack in Foucault’s historicization of psychoanalysis lies in its failure to provide a clear view of ways in which these larger issues work themselves into the reading of specific Freudian texts. oddly. and thus to the cultural . The marginal but central positioning of psychoanalysis in Foucault’s works is arguably characteristic even of the fi nal two volumes of The History of Sexuality in which psychoanalysis is not mentioned at all. The subject of psychoanalysis consequently has the position of being the problem to which Foucault’s books are often addressed. given the often silently privileged position of psychoanalysis in Foucault’s work.

in the historical moment in which we fi nd ourselves. as both Toews . in combination with other practices of our culture.” and is thus the privileged vehicle of confession as instrument of disciplinary power. The argument. as noted. 5 Despite the fact that. . I will then consider Toews’s critique of Foucault (which Toews himself does not pursue). as Toews points out. the subject theorized by psychoanalysis. There is strong reason to believe that alternative practices labeled ‘psychological’ will. Todd May argues that it has not yet done so. In the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. While Toews suggests that psychoanalysis has already transformed itself in order to address Foucault’s concerns. does not necessarily apply to all conceivable psychological practice. transformative action in relation to its own various contexts. ] that the genealogical critique. This does not imply that any psychological practice in any culture—nor even that any psychological practice in our own culture—must be oppressive. That is because the general focus upon the self which psychology fosters has become deeply entwined with the projects of normalization and discipline. and will suggest reasons for which Foucault chose not to engage with specific texts in psychoanalytic theory. while focusing upon existing psychological practice. is. exploring the question of whether developments in psychoanalytic theory and practice addressed some of Foucault’s concerns with the discipline and institution. the psychoanalytic subject is the epitome of the “confessing animal. a crucial outcome of disciplinary power for Foucault and the form of subjectivity to which he strives to explore alternatives in his studies of ancient Greece and Rome. The problem is not with the nature of psychology but with the practices that go under its name and with the perspective to which those practices—from school psychology to personnel management to personality theory to self-development—have given rise.6 In response. In this chapter I will therefore present the various problematizations of psychoanalysis in Foucault’s works. . despite his abiding interest in destabilizing them. contribute to the problems already raised by existing psychological practice. but that this does not mean that such a transformation is impossible. Foucault discusses psychoanalysis somewhat reductively. have had onerous political effects. and the institutions through which it is constructed. He writes: It should be emphasized [ .118 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault formation of psychoanalysis as a critical reflection and transcending. is not an a priori one. however. Foucault’s histories show that the practices of psychology in our culture. and the relevance of Foucault’s generalized critiques to later Freudian and postFreudian theory. the second half of this chapter will consider whether Foucault’s critiques of psychoanalysis are in fact not a priori.

catharsis. Although Foucault himself only considers psychoanalysis as a manner in which subjects are fashioned by a disciplinary society. and which can also be said to be critiques of psychoanalysis. is normalizing. Foucault reframes this last point. Foucault questions the idea that psychiatry and psychoanalysis liberate the subject. and 3) the doctor-patient relationship is one of disciplinary power. 2) psychoanalysis. like psychiatry. in The Order of Things. as May argues. presents a teleological story of its own history. I will attempt to ascertain whether non-disciplinary and non-normalizing forms of psychoanalysis have already developed or if. were described. when in fact. like psychiatry. Notwithstanding Foucault’s unfailing suspicion of psychoanalysis. are always also technologies of the self. transhistorical story of the psyche. and a universalizing. We may schematize these as: 1) a popular understanding of psychoanalysis encourages a habit of confession in subjects by convincing them that confession functions as a therapy. and cure. 2) psychoanalysis solidifies the modern notion that sexuality is the essence of individuals. suggesting briefly that it continues in much the same fashion in psychoanalysis. when in fact psychiatry and psychoanalysis produce and solidify the uniquely modern experiences which they aim to cure.Psychoanalysis 119 and May suggest. that psychological disciplines present a historically contingent discourse as transhistorical. Additionally. it discursively fi xes identities. In Madness and Civilization and The Birth of the Clinic Foucault was also concerned with the problem of power between doctors and patients. to the contrary. I will examine the extent to which subjects may fashion themselves through certain forms of psychoanalytic practice. In this earlier work and again in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. which he explores at length in Madness and Civilization with respect to psychiatry. FOUCAULT’S CRITIQUES OF PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS In Chapter Two at least three critiques of confession which arise in Foucault’s fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. I will thus take up Foucault’s own argument that practices of discipline. consequently presenting its “cures” as scientific progress and truths. I will examine the question of whether some forms of psychotherapeutic practice might function as cares of the self. which he has shown psychoanalysis to be. in Madness and Civilization Foucault raises at least two other significant critiques of psychoanalysis: 1) psychoanalysis. they remain to be seen. . exploiting medical or quasi-medical authority in order to dominate subjects and to perform what is in fact a purely moral and political task. and that subjects often have some leeway in adjusting the balance of self-governance and domination that is at play. which limits rather than liberates the bodies and pleasures of subjects speaking about sexuality.

Psychology. he predicts. Man was born with the epistemology of man. and then the manners in which psychoanalysis is seen as taking the problematic features of psychiatry further. could only be thought in the period in which knowledge for the fi rst time tried to grasp the knower as well as the known. Madness is the déjà-là of death. Foucault claims. “Death’s annihilation is no longer anything because it was already everything. This epistemological shift did not so much allow human beings to know themselves for the fi rst time as they had always been. and to other empirical sciences of its time. Having noted this epistemological point from The Order of Things. as he had done in Madness and Civilization. will disappear again with it. possessing a pathetic nobility. instead. in which psychiatry and psychoanalysis are considered as both discursive and non-discursive activities. a squabble of cap and bells. vain words. although it claims to discover essential features of the human psyche and to discover objective knowledge which was up until then hidden. but rather constructed “man” as the being who knows himself. or how psychoanalysis has in fact functioned. to the epistēmē of the modern era. not this time in terms of its social institutions. it is not possible to consider psychoanalysis in isolation. The Order of Things considers psychology only as a discursive practice. because I wish to focus not only on psychoanalytic theory but on psychoanalytic practice.120 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Here Foucault argues for the historicity of psychological discourse. For the medieval and renaissance subject.”7 As such the madman was tragic but also a figure of truth. during the Middle Ages and Renaissance the madman was an eschatological figure. and of the futility of our earthly aspirations. unlike Madness and Civilization and The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Shakespeare’s King Lear and Cervantes’s Don . because life itself was only futility. Because Foucault only mentions psychoanalysis in these works by associating it in passing with his more extensive critiques of psychiatry. it is necessary to consider Foucault’s arguments about psychiatry fi rst. a reminder of death in life. Reminders of this conception of madness are the Fool of the tarot and the truth-telling madmen and fools of medieval and renaissance literature. The head that will become a skull is already empty. but in terms of psychology’s relation to a network of knowledge. showing the contingency of understanding madness as an object of study and treatment for psychiatric science. Foucault argues that in contrast to today. in this section I will focus on Foucault’s arguments that psychoanalysis is normalizing and disciplinary as these unfold in Madness and Civilization and in later writings and interviews. and. THE BIRTH OF PSYCHIATRY In Madness and Civilization Foucault traces the shifts in the manners in which madness has been understood and treated from the period of the Middle Ages to the present.

With the Age of Reason. In each case. while Foucault describes the practice of exiling the mad from the cities during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. set bad examples for others. All of this was to change with the early modern period: madness no longer spoke an eschatological truth but was an error. and a similar phenomenon occurred throughout Europe. however. and especially with being lost on the dark and dangerous. Because the mad men and women of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were figures of truth. their appeal to the imaginations of medieval and renaissance artists and patrons. prodigal and spendthrift sons. Appropriate to the age which was coming to an end when these works were written. but moral reform. Insanity. While the ships of fools represented in medieval and renaissance art may never have existed. and did not work. to remove spectacles of poverty and vice from the public sphere. beggars and panhandlers. These workhouses were not specifically intended for the mad. was that none of them worked.Psychoanalysis 121 Quixote are some of the last representations of the medieval and renaissance perception of madness. like that of Quixote and Lear. however. criminals. the insane were locked up along with people who were disturbing the peace of their families. arose from inoccupation and could be corrected through labor. they were punished with more work. indicates the association of the mad with wandering. on the contrary. and to contain the populations which would participate in popular uprisings. confi ned to workhouses for the purposes of reform. Unlike their criminal and . but for all those who created scandal. to circumvent potential crime. 1% of the French population came to be interned. As Foucault argues. By the middle of the eighteenth century the view of madness was once more to change.” within a few months following a general edict in 1656. couples living outside of marriage. For Foucault. and not working was considered to be a source of vice. there was no notion of rehabilitating them. In what Foucault calls “the Great Confi nement. the insane ceased to be human beings who had simply erred through inactivity. If they worked with zeal. As such in the seventeenth century the mad ceased to be exiled and to be associated with a particular geographical freedom but were. Foucault suggests. it was thought. The logic behind associating these assorted groups. The houses were not economically or politically successful. If they did not work well. chaotic and amorphous body of the sea. Quixote and Lear wander the countryside in their madness. and the cost of upkeeping the houses outweighed what they earned. the workhouses functioned to turn unproductive citizens into productive ones. like other vices such as sloth and lust. this behavior indicated that they had been morally reformed and could eventually be released. the main motivation behind the establishment of workhouses was not economic productivity. as greater unemployment (and hence poverty and crime) spread outside of the houses as a result of the work which was accomplished within. and moreover an error that could be corrected. In the houses of confi nement the internees were forced to be productive.

It was remarked that they could endure sleeping in rooms which were sixteen degrees below freezing with barely a rag to cover them. The mad were kept naked or nearly naked. who writes: “I can easily conceive of a man without hands. in the houses of confi nements the mad were beaten for bad behavior until they grew docile. their insane companions. and no longer did a fear of contagion worry administrators and onlookers. beating them if they attempted to revolt. but moreover to remove the negative spectacle of vice which they represented from the public view. Whereas during the Middle Ages and Renaissance the mad were a source of anxiety. so othered from their sane spectators that the sight of them could serve as entertainment which gave rise to neither pity nor anxiety. and whereas during the seventeenth century the mad were simply like the poor and criminals. Foucault cites Pascal.”8 Of these two options. The mad were so thoroughly bestialized. with the Age of Reason a complete disidentification with the insane occurred.122 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault poor companions. But I cannot conceive of man without thought.10 Similarly. head (for it is only experience which teaches us that the head is more necessary than the feet). During these visits from the public the mad men and women might be made to perform acrobatics with fl icks of a whip from the attendant or from other madmen. men and women who were mistaken in judgement but could be reintegrated into society. men and women without thought—or rather. reminding the sane of the demise which threatened all human beings.9 While the poor and criminals could be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. without reason—were deemed to be brutes rather than stones. the mad were put on public display as a source of entertainment and revenue. could only be trained to behave better. and were treated in the same inhumane ways that animals of the past and today are made to suffer. in the eighteenth century up until at least 1815. that would be a stone or a brute. while the principle in the seventeenth century was to confi ne all those who did not work in order to rehabilitate them. the mad came to be seen as inhuman. feet. sleeping on soaked straw in their own excrement in dungeons which flooded when the sewers overflowed and which were over-run by rats.11 Perhaps most telling of all in this shift toward bestialization which had occurred in the perception of the mad. and up to thirteen internees would be crowded into eight foot square cells which dripped with water. Madness was not linked to medicine. any more than animals could be cured of their bestiality through medical intervention. like animals. The insane were thought to not suffer from cold and other forms of pain the way humans do. No longer was the sight of the insane a reminder of what would or could eventually befall the viewer. and Foucault describes one eighteenth-century Scottish farmer who used madmen as beasts of burden on his farm. . The insane were thus brutalized to be obedient brutes.12 For a few pennies one could visit the asylums and view the mad as one would go to a zoo or a circus to see curious animals.

viewed for the first time as a disease of the nerves or an “excess of sensibility. and eventually by prisons as places of rehabilitation. In the fi rst move. Poverty was not a spectacle of vice which risked contagion. and it was argued that the mad.Psychoanalysis 123 In the last years of the eighteenth century “the Great Confi nement” would come to an end and the poor. the propriety of making the criminal and the mad cohabitate was cast into doubt. who had lived together promiscuously for a hundred years.” In his study of the birth of the prison. Foucault argues. Discipline and Punish. after all. madness came to be the very symbolization of confi nement. First there was indignation on the part of criminals (who were. and the punishment of criminals was that they should have to share temporarily in the life of confi nement which followed by nature for the mad. when confi nement with the mad was deemed an injustice to criminals. it was only contested whether they should be confi ned with criminals. Foucault argues that prison reform and the psychiatric reform of criminals did not take place because . The move of the mad from the prison to the asylum was considered a “liberation” of the mentally ill. The result of these debates was that asylums exclusively for the mad were formed. still men) that they were forced to live with brutes who kept them awake at night and made the workplace dangerous by day. and the criminal. and to whom the injustice was done when criminals were made to live with the insane.”14 It was never doubted that the mad should be confi ned. madness remained linked “more fi rmly than ever to confi nement. With the new asylums and the birth of psychiatry madness was medicalized. the mad. and medicine and morality would contest each other and be intertwined as domains. The poor needed to be set free because it was on their backs that the wealth of the nation depended. At around the same time. In this discourse. Finally. should not be forced to live with criminals. who were innocent. A bit later the reverse objection was raised.”15 This meant that madness was once again a moral fault. were seen and continue to be seen as philanthropist “liberators. libertines.13 To begin with. libertines and other troublesome relatives incarcerated through the use of lettres de cachet were released. When the mad and the criminal were separated. the response was that the threat of cohabitation with the insane was a disincentive to crime.16 With the re-humanization of the mad. and the fi rst doctors to argue for this move and to run the new asylums. the poor were virtuous: a country needed poor people in order to be rich since the poor worked hard but consumed little. the material conditions of confi nement would at least improve and the insane were deemed to be curable once more. would be redivided. and that living with madmen was part of the punishment for lawbreakers. economists realized that it had been a mistake to incarcerate the poor. On the contrary. Samuel Tuke in England and Philippe Pinel in France. in which gruesome spectacles of torture and execution are described as being replaced in the late eighteenth century by prisons as sites of forced labor.

17 As shall be seen. . .”21 Another thing that the mad feared was a return to imprisonment and chains. made the physical existence of the majority of the insane more humane. 20 Tuke would write that “The principle of fear [ . Forced labor and psychiatric treatment for all criminals in the modern period reintegrated normalized. even if this rhetoric was used at the time and continues to be used today. with the move from the prison to the asylum. Foucault argues that its disciplinary target is the more productive site of the inmate’s soul. is not that the species grew kinder or more enlightened (despite its lingering cruelties). Madmen and women who did not behave might now be punished with ice baths and cold showers. and other inventive instruments which Foucault describes (such as the “famous ‘rotary machine’”). However. For Foucault the explanation behind these changes. disciplined citizens into the workforce. as in the case of prison reform. Tuke would exploit their fear by menacing them with chains . and patients were made to work less for the economic than for the moral gains of their labor. religion was central to Tuke’s treatment: the insane were schooled in religious principles and religious fear was exploited. a similar argument occurs in Madness and Civilization with respect to the mad. work was once more viewed as a form of rehabilitation for the mad. but that it had developed more efficient means of disciplining the human body and soul. while the ancien regime practice of slaughtering or mutilating a few criminals. the Retreat. spreading resentment against the bloody power of the king even while letting the majority of lawbreakers go free. that the monotony of insanity was divided into rudimentary types. the majority of the mad were no longer flogged and kept in dungeons and chains. and psychiatry would be a privileged tool of normalization in both the prison and the asylum. although prison cells and instruments of torture would not disappear entirely.124 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault human beings became more humane. ] is considered as of great importance in the management of the patients. instead of having the patients in chains to begin with. but rather because reformers realized that the new systems of punishment and rehabilitation were more effective at dealing with the social problem of crime. ASYLUMS Psychiatric reform. had proved neither economical nor effective. while Charcot would persist in putting madwomen on display and inciting them to perform.19 In addition.” and attributes the division instead to “A political more than a philanthropic awareness.”18 In Tuke’s asylum. no humanitarian approach was responsible for the fact that the mad were gradually isolated. Although the modern prison is apparently kinder to the prisoner’s body. solitary confinement. Foucault stresses that “No medical advance. and later with electrotherapy and lobotomies. As such. As such. including the removal of the mad from dungeons to asylums.

not to be spoken about. Fearing their own madness rather than the doctor. were no different from the other six patients who thought they were Louis XVI. In this way the mad were made to feel responsible for their behavior and to feel shame for their own punishment. With the diminishment of physical or external coercion. Eventually patients at La Salpêtrière and Bicêtre would recognize that they themselves were behaving like their ridiculous companions. In this manner the insane were normalized.”22 While the insane inmates of prisons had been displayed as spectacles of animality. Tuke would for instance invite his patients to tea parties where they were to act like strangers. and if they continued to behave madly they were to be punished swiftly but calmly. and if it was spoken about it was met with a discouraging silence on the part of the doctor. Foucault argues that madness was silenced. Although the insane appeared to have been liberated. It was no longer the flamboyant bodies of the mad which were being looked at. Louis XVI. but rather of gentle but fi rm father figure who punishes the mad individual for his or her own good and not. being free to wander about the asylum grounds so long as they behaved. or that they. The point was to teach the mad to keep their madness silent and to behave like normal people. it was their souls which had been imprisoned: “Tuke created an asylum where he substituted for the free terror of madness the stifl ing anguish of responsibility. for the pleasure of the spectacle. At the fi rst perceptible indication of insanity the patients would be threatened with punishment and chains. learning to judge themselves by judging others. In this manner the mad came to see themselves through the eyes of reason. the mad came to fear not the psychiatrist but the manifestations of their own madness. Tuke made his patients conscious that they were being observed for signs of madness. but rather the mad were aware that they were being watched for indications of their inner states. that they were being judged too. and these parties functioned as tests for the mad to see if they could behave like “normal” guests. In Pinel’s asylums of La Salpêtrière and Bicêtre. fear no longer reigned on the other side of the prison gates. it now raged under the seals of conscience. patients would learn to monitor and control themselves and to be passive to punishment when it came. As in Tuke’s Retreat. taught to self-monitor because they knew they were being monitored by others. or to see themselves through the mirror provided by other internees and held up by doctors. as in the prison. and were taught to judge the other patients as absurd. as in the house of confi nement. similarly. and that they were all equally absurd. and Tuke would explain to the patients why they were being punished.Psychoanalysis 125 and punishment if they continued to manifest signs of madness. Pinel’s patients were made aware that they were being judged. not the psychiatrist who had the job of carrying it out. . At the same time the doctor who was ordering or executing the punishment was not put in the role of tormentor. constraint was internalized as guilt and responsibility. As a result. It was their madness which brought them punishment.

and Tuke and Pinel recognized the technical irrelevance of their medical training. and was “sorely missed during the Revolution. psychiatrists were perfectly content to sign a certificate to confi ne a woman as mad because she had been a fi lthy whore. Despite the purely moral function of psychiatrists. which is “public hygiene. The renaming of the place of confinement as a hospital was a way of declaring that the practice of psychiatry was indeed medical—since it. contrary to a common understanding. it was not only aristocrats who were victims of lettres de cachet. the possession of a medical degree was significant in bringing about the “cure” of patients . Foucault insists that medical knowledge was never usefully drawn on in the treatment of the mad. that he could not avoid suspecting them. to provide a sort of guarantee. The ability to have one’s relatives locked up was considered a right during the eighteenth century. Confi nement. the most embarrassing cases and. and as protectors of public hygiene. Tuke for instance notes of one of the fi rst doctors at the Retreat that “the medical means were so imperfectly connected with the progress of recovery. Foucault stresses.”23 Fifteen years after Madness and Civilization Foucault would continue to argue that the function of psychiatry is moral rather than medical. However. at the same time. like medicine.”26 This was a means which the medical certificates of psychiatrists would soon fulfi ll.”25 Indeed. the relationship between the doctor and the patient was recognized as crucial. to treat the most obvious. Prison. had a hospital. too. ordinary people such as cobblers’ wives and fishmongers could go to public writers who practiced at street corners and dictate their complaints. In “Psychiatry. 24 Having an institution and calling it a “hospital” is an “operation of justification” for what psychiatrists are really occupied with. or a man for being an alcoholic spendthrift scoundrel.” he argues that asylums were called “hospitals” as a form of “cover operation”: Psychiatry immediately perceived itself as a permanent function of social order and made use of the asylums for two purposes: first.” in order to have these troublesome family members locked away. to be rather concomitants than causes. Foucault argues.126 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault In these new asylums. He observes that. And during the whole Revolutionary period this problem was posed constantly: a means must be found for families to be able to confi ne lawfully those individuals who are a nuisance to them. The intervention of the doctor was moral rather than medical. while a medical certificate was necessary from the end of the eighteenth century onwards in order to commit a patient to an asylum. in this article Foucault argues that the medical certificates of doctors took up where lettres de cachet had left off. that their husbands were scoundrels or their wives were “filthy whores. an image of scientificity. by making the place of confinement look like a hospital.

they did not respect their goalers as moral authorities. power is a figure with whom the patient is in an intimate relation. In this environment. While in the prisons of the early modern period the mad might obey their keepers out of pain and fear. flicking each other with whips. the atmosphere was one of madness and pain. and this proved to be a more efficient way of controlling them than whips and chains. and sometimes it was the mad who would display the mad to their sane spectators. the family milieu was the antithesis of madness. without appeal. and nineteenth-century doctors themselves would come to see their task in these terms. at the Retreat patriarchal family values were inculcated in the mad as sanity. at which point. silencing itself. whereas in the asylum the patients learned to respect and desire to please their doctors.”27 In the asylum. indicating to the internee that the doctor was a reasonable man possessing a body of objective knowledge. was accepted within and without the asylum walls. for Foucault. The mad accepted their status as minors in the father-child relationships which developed between doctors and patients. although religious morality continued to be cultivated. While at Tuke’s asylum the Quaker religion was used to facilitate this integration into the values of the bourgeois family. the iconography of religion was removed and faith was treated only as a symptom of madness to be monitored for fanaticism. “faceless and abstract. an environment in which insanity would necessarily dissipate. Physical constraints were normally unnecessary in these conditions because the patients’ respect for reason and for their doctors was the most effective constraint of all. and power was. As such. A return to sanity meant an adjustment to and acceptance of the norms and values of the bourgeois family. Tuke explicitly understood the members of his Retreat as a family. and the mad as children. at Pinel’s asylums in postRevolution Paris. norms and truths. In the prisons the mad were often made to guard each other. religious fanatics .Psychoanalysis 127 because it gave the doctor an aura of authority and thus functioned as a moral and juridical guarantee. despite the greater lucidity of Tuke and Pinel. Patients recognized their doctors as figures of reason and respected their moral and juridical authority as such. someone to be respected and obeyed. unreason spoke with unreason. with the keepers as adults. In contrast. the doctors as fathers. The mad had for a long time had the legal status of minors but they had not lived as children in the prisons and the prison had not been conceived as a family home. For Tuke. and unreason is made to speak with reason and to speak on reason’s terms. and so in the asylum the doctor’s power to decide punishments and to execute them immediately. As in the bourgeois nineteenth-century family. madness had already been conquered because it had recognized the superiority of reason and submitted to it. the father was the judge and executioner. Reason had been internalized by the mad as a norm—even if a norm that they were still struggling to achieve—and this norm was personified by the doctor.28 Indeed. Patients believed that the directives of the doctors adhered to a body of medical knowledge. in Foucault’s words. in contrast.

and because they might teach other inmates to follow. the initial model of madness would be to believe oneself to be God. particularly if they tried to spread their faith. while for the preceding centuries it had been to deny God. the doctors. taught in the asylum. and later the Symbolic. doctors would understand themselves as overcoming resistance to paternal authority. for Whom they might take themselves to be. not merely their fathers or father-substitutes.”30 With psychiatry. “father” or “Oedipal complex” and describe it as the destiny of all civilization as well as the source of all neuroses. precisely because they refused to accept the authority of their earthly fathers. and. Psychiatry was a practice which disseminated father complexes. By obliging patients to submit to psychiatric treatment. transforming madness from unreason into a more manageable need for paternal discipline. the law.”31 and this parental complex in which the father is the law and in which the only language which can be spoken is his own would be internalized as truth and norm. and which then posited father complexes as the source of pathologies. rather than reflecting and repeating earlier and inevitable relations which were the sources of the patients’ madness. and the mad might have initially been resisting reason. was submission to an earthly father’s law. to see oneself as God. Later. the mad must be persuaded to see this paternal law as the only viable option.29 Foucault notes that “For the nineteenth century. psychoanalysis would come along and “discover” this Victorian patriarchal bourgeois “parental” or. training patients to accept patriarchal norms as the path to reason. the father. i. . according to Foucault. Reason was thus embodied by the doctor. and paradigmatically to see oneself as an authority not bound to moral limitations. Resistance to psychiatry and psychoanalysis was now seen as a resistance to the father.e. Foucault suggests that in the beginning father complexes had been produced between doctors and patients as a form of cure. more specifically. But for Foucault madness was not always about family complexes or inabilities to adjust to the necessities of family life. Sanity. returned to dungeons and chains. PRODUCING OEDIPUS Because of the self-conscious manners in which the mad were taught to see themselves as children and their doctors as fathers to whose moral instruction they must submit. so that what was once a cosmic conflict between reason and unreason was reduced to a mere family quarrel. Foucault argues that asylums cultivated a “parental complex.128 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault could be banned from the asylum. as even late twentieth-century Lacanian feminists such as Kristeva would accept. prioritizing instead the authority of God. on the other hand. The alternative to the father’s law. when in fact this family structure was rather recent and had been implanted in subjects at least partly by psychiatry itself. madness was understood as a refusal to recognize paternal authority. language.

and for those who refused to work. their cured patients were the best of workers. madness.S. for women who stole. disobedience. the most devoted of spouses and most loving of parents. obedient wives. silence. at least partially normalized. Jews.” and of course the late nineteenth. Lack of sex could cause madness.” demonstrating a subject who would not be assimilated into this society’s particular (although presented as universal) values. Pinel would point out that marriage prevented madness in women. and to submit to those values was to be cured. and laziness were the “three great transgressions against bourgeois society. and bachelorhood. Psychiatry.” Foucault argues that the cooperation of psychiatrists with the KGB in the U. lesbians.Psychoanalysis 129 is Semiotic matriarchy. and women discontent with maternity and patriarchy is well known. Also indicating the “kinship structure” shared by the police and psychiatry. 33 As Pinel and Tuke would stress. 34 Nineteenth-century psychiatry thus presented its own morality as a universal norm and imposed it on the insane. and then photos of women to look at and injections which induced pleasure.” an “intensification. those who resisted the assimilating practices of the asylum were returned to their material bonds. chaos. Foucault discusses the participation of psychiatrists as well as a psychoanalyst in police interrogations . and death—an impossible alternative which can only be drawn upon sparingly to trouble patriarchy without ever actually endangering it.”37 Foucault observes the use of psychosurgery such as lobotomies in the United States and the Soviet Union for “political purposes. and the task of psychiatry was thus not a medical one but a “moral synthesis. but so could sex outside of marriage: reproductive sexuality within marriage was the universal path to reason. Not to conform to Victorian family values was to be insane. in order to enforce moral and social norms on those who resisted synthesis and who represented political dissent. blacks. and moral and social homogeneity. As Foucault notes. and women make “great patients. 35 While most of the mad were liberated from their material chains through psychiatry. 32 “Cured” individuals are thus those who have been thoroughly normalized (or. and heterosexualized) into the patriarchal family values of the doctors. The asylum produced good citizens. Prison. In “Confi nement. as Foucault would stress in later interviews.S.” particularly with respect to sexual mores. the ossification of a kinship structure that has never ceased to function. 39 Foucault’s interviewers comment that the working class. Pinel’s asylums still included dungeons which were reserved for religious fanatics who did not recognize the doctor’s authority. but was simply an overt case and “condensation” of psychiatry’s “inheritance.”38 and the Soviet use of Pavlovian reflexology to “cure” homosexuals: gay men would be given photos of men to look at along with injections that made them sick. for Kristeva. 36 Punitive treatment of the mad would continue even in late twentieth-century psychiatry.R. was not an abuse of medicine. promiscuity and drunkenness led to insanity in both sexes. theft.and early twentieth-century surgical intervention (hysterectomies and lobotomies) of psychiatrists to “cure” feminists. laziness.

or rather begins once again to listen to this language. as a fundamental structure of asylum life. the entire structure of the asylum. quite literally in this case as a “torture-advisor.40 The psychoanalyst. When Freud “liberates” the mad for the second time. into this relation. for Foucault. despite some differences. to say what had been repressed. the fi rst man to accept in all its seriousness the reality of the physician-patient couple. On the contrary they were asked to speak. and indeed. should we be astonished that the formulations he hears are always those of transgression? In this inveterate silence. Foucault writes: And it is to this degree that all nineteenth-century psychiatry really converges on Freud. Psychoanalysis always already took place on reason’s terms with reason embodied by the analyst. Foucault writes that Freud would “liberate” the mad again. When Freud. Foucault observes. functions. the fi rst to consent not to look . it is already decided what they will say. henceforth eroded into monologue. he nevertheless accepts from Tuke and Pinel the significance of the doctor-patient relation. according to Foucault he collapses all the power of silence.41 Importantly. within a hushed ambiance of the secret and in a discourse which presupposed the authority of the listener and with the assumption that the “unreasonable” and “abnormal” patient had transgressed. that they will only say what Freud is prepared to hear. and in one of his only extended discussions of Freud. according to what rules their speech will be structured. and he “exploits” it. like the psychiatrist. In the fi nal lines of Madness and Civilization. However this would take place as the speaking of transgressions. Beginning with the differences. to describe their madness.130 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault involving torture in Brazil. or that there will be no surprises. In the fi nal few pages of Madness and Civilization Foucault again argues that psychiatric methods were simply continued and refi ned in psychoanalytic practice. has its correlative in the exposure of confession. punishment and observation. and abolishes as well the observations and punishments of the asylum. Foucault writes: The absence of language. even if it is now the patients who speak and the doctors who remain silent. The psychoanalyst scarcely needs to speak because what he has to say has already triumphed. in psychoanalysis. this time from the asylums and their silence. as confessions accompanied by guilt and shame. to contain them from any external expression. Freud’s patients were not forced to silence their mad thoughts. while Freud abolishes silence for a monologue. allowing them to speak. Analysis thus occurs only in the psychoanalyst’s language.” These are not just cases of a few bad apples. but reveal something structural about psychiatry and psychoanalysis. transgression has taken over the very sources of speech. cautiously reinstitutes exchange. for madness can only be spoken with a prior acceptance of reason’s authority.

a pure and circumspect Silence. in an absence that is also a total presence—all the powers that had been distributed in the collective existence of the asylum.Psychoanalysis 131 away nor to investigate elsewhere. the fi rst to follow its consequences with absolute rigor. but he did not deliver him from what was essential in this existence. extended them to the maximum by uniting them in the doctor’s hands. it becomes a subject. the latter both working as protectors of public hygiene and Soviet political mores. he made it the Mirror in which madness. But on the other hand he exploited the structure that enveloped the medical personage. he silenced the instances of condemnation..” having observed the overtly shared kinship structure between politics. clings to and casts off itself. he eliminated madness’s recognition of itself in the mirror of its own spectacle. a Judge who punishes and rewards in a judgement that does not even condescend to language.S. Freud transferred all the structures Pinel and Tuke had set up within confi nement. and psychiatry in the U. In “Confi nement. the police.R. he transformed this into an absolute Observation. Foucault notes that lobotomy having eventually been made illegal. thus stressing again the logical continuation of psychiatric moral and political methods in psychoanalysis. in the doctor. Prison. Psychiatry. He focused upon this single presence—concealed behind the patient and above him. the fi rst not to attempt to hide it in a psychiatric theory that more or less harmonized with the rest of medical knowledge. but they are being brought in. The doctor.42 For the author of Madness and Civilization. He did deliver the patient from the existence of the asylum within which his “liberators” had alienated him. if not because it is suspected that what they have to say may be of some use? And I’m sure they are being brought in as “sexologists. there’s a real need—which is probably not very . he amplified its thaumaturgical virtues. alienation becomes disalienating because. To the doctor. Freud demystified all the other asylum structures: he abolished silence and observation. Why bring them in. He notes: all the psychoanalysts will be foreigners. it was not coincidental that the fi rst Congress of Psychoanalysis was about to be held in the Soviet Union.”43 the form in which submission to normalization in the hands of a paternal authority has been crystalized and made to be everything. psychoanalysis is thus simply the most economical form of “that gigantic moral imprisonment” which we call the “liberation of the insane. he regrouped its powers. by an inspired short-circuit. preparing for its omnipotence a quasi-divine status. he created the psychoanalytical situation where. remains the key to psychoanalysis. in an almost motionless movement.S.” That’s to say. as an alienating figure.

. ] If we had done so. . in readings of Freud. I have never been a Marxist and I have never been a structuralist [ . whether housing conditions. of the outsider. Nietzsche has all the roughness. [ . . and this is perhaps the reason for which psychoanalysis is so little discussed in Foucault’s works. how will they be caught? They’ll be caught on the couch.45 Psychotherapy is thus presented by both the early and later Foucault as a trap in which one is caught. there is a need felt for a “normalization” of the individual’s behavior through forms of authority that are no longer the administrative and police authorities of the KGB.” in which he writes: As to Rivière’s discourse. [ . but something more subtle. who provides multiple accounts of the birth and development of psychoanalysis. several families sharing one kitchen and one bathroom. ] Madness and Civilization. . ]. the rusticity. . Pierre Rivière . notably. I had read Nietzsche in ’53 [ . 46 The only way in which Foucault suggests that he and his co-authors can avoid the traps of psychoanalysis is to not engage in its discourse. ] is neither Freudian nor Marxist nor structuralist. . as it happened. ] [I]n relation to philosophy. . . . Foucault states: In relation to academic philosophical discourse [ . we should have brought it within the power relation whose reductive effect we wished to show.” Foucault continues. . in psychotherapy.R. even if it is always haunting their margins. and we ourselves should have fallen into the trap it set. Foucault suggests.44 Up until this point. I don’t think there’s a little Machiavelli behind all that. or to hide from it. Fundamentally. . we decided not to interpret it and not to subject it to any psychiatric or psychoanalytic commentary [ .”47 Foucault inscribes his book on the emergence of psychiatry and psychoanalysis not. mutual observation. But what does Nietzsche mean for Foucault? In another interview. NIETZSCHEAN LAUGHTER In an interview Foucault states: “I have never been a Freudian. of the peasant from . and “trap” is precisely the word Foucault uses in a passage from his introduction to “I. ] Nietzsche represents the outer frontier. . ] When people have their own space and consequently find it easier to escape or ignore the political apparatus. . .S. simply through lack of privacy: People are held in place by simple means.S. the normalization of sexuality was controlled in the U. written between ’55 and ’60 [ .132 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault clearly realized. but in his reading of Nietzsche. . “Now. .

Stepping outside of psychoanalysis’s own self-understanding. joyful stupidity. theory with theory. to say with a strength that one cannot ignore: “Come on. a “stupid” text perhaps. a rejection of norms. . in any case.”51 and yet he declines to elaborate on this point. all that is rubbish . by working within that theory. with a shrug of the shoulders and without it seeming in any way ridiculous. arguing that Rivière represented a case of Lacanian paranoia: Foucault simply laughs. dismissing it . to be discussed in Chapter Five.Psychoanalysis 133 the mountains. has the “strength” to simply laugh and to say. like the peasant who comes down from the mountain and shrugs his shoulders. by circumventing it with one’s own discourse.”50 and thus. refi ning it. and this laughter was taken as a sign of his madness. daring them to analyze it. declining to work within the logic of these systems of thought.” but which Foucault considers brilliant because it manages to break out of an apparently inevitable way of thinking and resists disciplinary power. like Nietzsche and Rivière. Foucault does not counter psychoanalysis with psychoanalysis. shatters.48 It was seen in Chapter One that Nietzschean genealogy “cuts” rather than “understands. or. he will acknowledge that psychoanalytic theory is more “subtle” than such dismissive treatment implies: in “Les mailles du pouvoir. it shatters rather than understands. One example of an alternative discourse would be the memoir of Rivière. which. Foucault looks at psychoanalysis not as a series of discoveries or as an unfolding of truth. Foucault does not challenge psychoanalytic theory. that allows him. elsewhere. Foucault said it was presented as a challenge “à messieurs les psys en général. No. the text of a “village idiot” and “madman. When asked in an interview why he had published Rivière’s memoir. Foucault acknowledges that “Freud’s thought is in fact much more subtle than the image that I have presented here. Rather. but from the outside and in toto.” for instance. in the end.” even if. to cut and to shatter with other kinds of discourse. or philosophy with philosophy. he steps outside of philosophy and psychoanalytic theory. It is by opposing it with a sort of astonished. not as a means of helping individuals. or psychiatry for that matter. You will not get out of it by staying within philosophy. looking at how it refi ned itself. trying to understand it. As such.” while here an even more destructive Nietzschean “shattering” is privileged over comprehension. . calling her a “sotte. and instead attempts to circumvent them. . “Come on. a sort of uncomprehending burst of laughter. understands. Yes . or by providing close analyses of its texts and attempting to nuance or challenge its theories on its own terms. Only one psychoanalyst took up his challenge. by refi ning it as much as you can. not as a body of continually evolving theories. all that is rubbish.”49 thinking that they would have nothing to say in response.” Ridding oneself of philosophy necessarily implies a similar lack of deference. . Foucault notes that the parricide Pierre Rivière was described by witnesses as laughing strangely.

for instance.134 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault as relations of power and demographic control. . With respect to the notions of repression and the unconscious. Foucault situates psychoanalysis in a history of relations of knowledge and power. and that we are thus at least partially inaccessible to ourselves. The disciplinary shift of which psychoanalysis is part has meant that power is no longer in the hands of sovereigns but occurs in relations such as those between patients and doctors. Instead of engaging in psychoanalytic texts. that it had to be. and how confession functions in terms of truth and power. as described by Freud. and truths had not. which gave birth to psychoanalysis for Foucault. 52 Instead. It also means that power has become diffuse and disguised as scientific knowledge and humanistic care. For Foucault. the development of historical conditions which were necessary for these concepts to be thought at all. practices. but how the generalized notion of repression has been mobilized as an incentive and an excuse to confess. With respect to repression. As such. and hence truth in itself is no justification. and across its social institutions. but rather asks how the ideas of an unconscious and of sexual repression work in terms of disciplinary power. Foucault explains the series of accidents through which these concepts and their institutions emerged. It is these relations and concerns. Foucault does not provide refutations of psychoanalytic texts and nor does he look at how they developed over the years. and that our sexuality in particular is inaccessible to us. again the question is not whether psychoanalytic theory is correct about repression. but looks instead at how a society invested in psychoanalysis developed and how psychoanalytic theory functions institutionally and in terms of relations of disciplinary power. he wanted to bracket this question and to change the perspective. and that we are oblivious to how power works. and thus that we should voluntarily put ourselves in relations of disciplinary power. but is a birth of something new but which appears inevitable. The point is to observe the increase in discipline that occurs when we believe in these theories and practices. a discovery of what was always the case and which is only now being articulated. but other truths would have emerged if these theories. that we should tell them about our sexuality in particular. or that it need be in the future. or whether we are in fact repressed. as Toews would have him do. this implies that we need experts to analyze us and to tell us who we are. Truth in itself does not explain existence. and Foucault would stress that he did not want to say that psychoanalysis was mistaken. Psychoanalytic theories may or may not be true today. something being true does not mean that it had to emerge. If we believe that there is an unconscious. is not a progress in knowledge. and it has meant that we set ourselves willingly into relations of disciplinary power. Foucault does not debate whether there is psychic repression or whether there is an unconscious. Instead of saying that psychoanalysis is wrong. This development which culminates in a diffusion of psychoanalysis across the culture of the West. and not Breuer’s treatment of Anna O.

through shifts in its pleasures and affects and practices. and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. this laughter is a corporeal response. For Foucault. exposure to another way of thinking which shocks our own. Toews would have wished. the practices of the self of Ancient Greece and Rome. to the torturing of prisoners and the insane. again. but to be able to conceive of something new. laughter which disturbed the present way of thinking: This book fi rst arose out of a passage in Borges. the gruesome torture of Damiens described at the beginning of Discipline and Punish. it is best . Rivière’s memoir. Importantly. These repeated references to a laughter which shatters recall Foucault’s earlier description of explosive laughter in The Order of Things. To reject psychoanalysis would not mean to return to the past. to shatter and to change. out of laughter that shattered. psychoanalytic concepts appear to us as common sense. Foucault’s books would have us burst into laughter. Following Nietzsche. all the familiar landmarks of my thought [ . 53 As with Aristotle’s distinction between universal categories and particular instances which is abolished by the Chinese Encyclopedia. non-philosophical texts which he brings into his works. Foucault yet again burst into laughter. Upon reading Borges’s citation from the Chinese encyclopedia. as. . . nor even to the obsessive self-mastery of the ancient Greeks. ] breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things. and we might also respond physically rather than only intellectually to other examples of Foucault’s. and not merely through the acceptance or examination of philosophical ideas. this was the function of many of the non-psychoanalytic. a form of power which is neither sovereign nor disciplinary. but to convince ourselves that other ways of thinking and being are possible. and the Chinese encyclopedia all show us that there are other ways of thinking and being than those of the Freudian subject. This is important because the work of discipline also works at the level of the body and thus can be undone only through the body. not in order to take it up instead of psychoanalysis.Psychoanalysis 135 What Foucault is showing is that despite the apparent progress which the birth of psychiatric science represented—for instance. Ladelle McWhorter makes a similar point in Bodies and Pleasures when she argues that because discipline targets the body rather than the intellect. But what we need is another Chinese encyclopedia. an aesthetics of existence which can also think about the pleasure and the freedom of the other. such as his description of the torture of Damiens or the abuses of psychiatry. it means that we now “treat” prisoners and the mad instead of torturing or simply confi ning them—it was not benign. rather than chart the development of psychoanalytic theory in a search for its errors. as I read the passage.

Foucault’s target is not as narrow as Freud or his followers. but to show that the entire field of theory is accidental. the hospital. and turned to the manners in . at the end of his life Foucault would say that he had over-emphasized discipline in his works. it might in fact be most effective for him to find texts which make him. not a necessary evolution in knowledge. As seen. This would also be one reason for which Foucault thinks that the discovery of new pleasures would be politically subversive. Because Foucault is responding against the workings of discipline on the body. For Foucault. As has been seen above. 54 This might go some way in defending Foucault from the charge that his few remarks about psychoanalysis and many of his criticisms of psychiatry function at an ad hominem level. and thus concludes that it is better to do without it. to feel visceral abhorrence—rather than to convince himself or his readers through rational arguments. presenting examples of abuse rather than engaging with theories. and his readers. laugh—or. but instead through examples which may cause the reader to respond at the level of her body. would we not then always be doomed to fail if we always combat power networks solely or even primarily at the level of ideas? Might we not need to practice. Foucault himself struggled with throughout his life55—means doing so on psychoanalysis’s own terms. and for which he does not engage with psychoanalysis at the level of its theories. the school. the family) and consequently on modern subjectivity itself. to discuss whether they are true or false. our way out of whatever it is that causes us debilitating pain? [ . ] In the second volume of his History of Sexuality Foucault makes some important remarks that support my contention that it is practices. of which Freud would be but a late and particularly eloquent representative. alternately. to engage with psychoanalytic texts on their own terms. however. What if Foucault is right about this? Insofar as power still operates that way. . and that it is normalizing and a means of internalizing disciplinary power. that his writings address and seek to change. both in the living of one’s life and in the writing of one’s texts. but aims rather at the diffuse effects of the “psy-” disciplines in society. She writes: Power in the institutions that developed through the nineteenth century tended to act not so much on the mind and its representations as on the body and its gestures. rather than to reason. not so much on reasoning as on doing. Foucault’s project is to expose and problematize the normative and disciplinary effects of psychiatry and psychoanalysis on various institutions (the prison. like engaging in psychoanalytic practice itself—which was a decision and a temptation which. Foucault decides not to enmesh himself in psychoanalytic discussions or in psychoanalytic practice. somewhat surprisingly. not ideas.136 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault combated through corporeal practices and not only through rational convictions or philosophical arguments. .

and particularly on his 1937 paper “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. I will also consider whether it may be appropriated as a practice of self-fashioning as well as a form of care for others. It will be argued that while Foucault’s critiques of psychoanalysis apply to different stages in Freud’s thought and to some forms of post-Freudian psychoanalytic theory. or whether these specific practices could be examples of self-governance and self-care. as Foucault seems to suggest. . even if Foucault should have succeeded in making us wary. despite the years of self-critique to which Toews points. To the extent that I will fi nd the problematic traits to which Foucault points present in psychoanalytic theory and in the history of its practice. He never considered whether he had over-emphasized discipline in his discussion of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in particular. overcome. In the next two sections I will therefore consider whether the problematic traits of psychoanalysis which Foucault has described indeed characterize psychoanalytic theory and practice. before turning to post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought. I will question whether these characteristics are structural to psychoanalysis. Freud’s essay defi nes psychoanalytic therapy in precisely these terms. that it involves a relation of domination—are apparent in both Freud’s early and late thought. and in some instances have been. inhibitions. ] nothing other . To begin with Foucault’s main critique of psychoanalysis in Madness and Civilization. or at least of the ways in which practices of discipline and self-governance are intertwined. but have been critiqued within psychoanalytic theory which was contemporary to Freud and which followed him. as “the freeing of someone from his neurotic symptoms. or whether they can be. In the next section I will return to Foucault’s critiques of psychoanalysis in Madness and Civilization.Psychoanalysis 137 which subjects can govern and fashion themselves. While it will be argued that psychoanalysis can easily function as discipline and domination. that it presents a totalizing history. . DOMINATION. that it is normalizing. they are not all intrinsic to psychoanalysis and thus that we need not follow Foucault in dismissing all forms of psychotherapy. or whether Foucault has over-emphasized the role of discipline in these practices.” in considering the validity of Foucault’s critiques. NORMALIZATION. however.”56 Psychoanalysis is said to achieve “for neurotics [ . I will draw primarily on his latest and thus most mature writing. To be fairest to Freud. and abnormalities of character. AND TOTALIZATION Normalization Many of the features of psychiatry and psychoanalysis which concern Foucault in Madness and Civilization—that it is normalizing. while in the fi nal section I will consider the quite different critiques raised in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction.

his possessions. in . for both male and female patients. rather than for a husband and (preferably male) children which leads Freud to conclude that Pappenheim had regressed to a suckling. she did not take up the normal career of a woman. All this goes unmentioned by Freud. she has remained to some extent cut off from life since that time.’) in similar terms: “In spite of her recovery. An unmarried female hysteric with whom Freud was less successful.”63 Freud lets it be understood (falsely) that Pappenheim recovered due to Breuer’s treatment of her. even in circumstances of extreme loss.”61 In A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.138 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault than what normal people bring about for themselves without its help. even. in contrast.”62 Freud goes on to suggest that Pappenheim was permanently “set back” by her neuroses to an earlier. or followed the normal path that his society prescribed. publishing and translating prolifically. Normality and success are thus measured by Freud. the period of existence as a suckling infant. in the following terms: “This critical illumination of his own self had a completely successful result.”59 Freud also describes his successful treatment of a fellow-analyst. Freud notes with satisfaction that “since then the patient has felt normal and has behaved unexceptionably. and political career.”58 it is apparent that Freud intends that successfully analyzed patients will conform to accepted social norms and not behave disruptively. absurd as it may sound. and all his family relationships. infantile stage of life: “a period in childhood. and bringing about real social change. philanthropic. in spite of the war having robbed him of his home. He married the woman he loved and turned into a friend and teacher of his supposed rivals. As shall be discussed in Chapter Five. For instance. Perhaps it was Pappenheim’s decision to care for other women. Pappenheim began a remarkable intellectual. Freud describes the successful analysis of a wealthy young Russian who later returns to Vienna as a destitute refugee: having followed this patient’s life for twenty-five years after the analysis terminated. Freud would also refer to the unmarried state of Bertha Pappenheim (‘Anna O. Ferenczi.”60 Among the main indications that this analysis was successful is that Ferenczi entered into an institutionalized heterosexual relationship soon after. but claims that she had nevertheless not been an entirely successful case because she had never married and had children. “saw every hope of happiness in love and marriage vanish” and “remained abnormal to the end of her life. who only says that she has been “active” but that her choices foresook womanhood and were thus inferior to the more typically feminine choices of marriage and motherhood.”57 Although Freud will assure the reader near the end of this essay that “Our aim will not be to rub off every peculiarity of human character for the sake of a schematic ‘normality. infantile state. some years after her treatment by Breuer ended. for although she has remained healthy and active. helping numerous poverty-stricken women and children.’ nor yet to demand that the person who has been ‘throughly analysed’ shall feel no passions and develop no internal confl icts.

which makes it apparent that at least some of Freud’s . noting that this means that the psychoanalyst’s own analysis will be “an interminable task.Psychoanalysis 139 terms of the analysand’s submission to patriarchy and ability to enter into an institutionalized. Throughout “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” Freud makes comparisons between psychotherapeutic cures and medical treatments and vaccinations for organic illnesses such as scarlet fever and smallpox.” and Freud writes that “the analytic situation consists in our allying ourselves with the ego of the person under treatment.”64 which in “The Future Prospects of Psychoanalytic Therapy.”69 Once more. In addition. but are simply enforcing their moral values onto others. for analysts as well as analysands. psychoanalysis is the path to normalization. as was also the case for the nineteenth-century psychiatry of Tuke and Pinel. Freud suggests that psychoanalysts undergo therapy every five years.”68 Psychoanalysts must themselves have been successfully normalized if they are to normalize others. and Freud asks: “how is the poor wretch to acquire the ideal qualifications which he will need in his profession? The answer is. As such. heterosexual relationship. unlike Freud. Foucault argues that the medical degree was a guarantee of the doctors’ wisdom and respectablity and thus functioned as a “cover operation” for their moral task. a considerable degree of mental normality and correctness. in Freud’s words. to “sound arguments”66).65 According to Foucault the analysand is able to normalize patients by making them submit to the paternal law and to the authority of an apparently objective reason (or. must be a normal one.” and thus to be able to safely “assimilate” the ego of the analysand into his own normality. Foucault calls the normalizing process of psychiatry and psychoanalysis a “moral synthesis. Beyond undergoing an initial analysis and continual self-analysis. in order to subdue portions of his id which are uncontrolled—that is to say to include them in the synthesis of his ego. He writes: “It is therefore reasonable to expect of an analyst. he must possess some kind of superiority.67 Because. not all psychoanalysts are medical doctors or have the moral guarantee which this education purportedly provides.”70 The analyst is to undergo analysis in order to be “normal. and the medical certificate of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts went a long way in accomplishing these results. in an analysis of himself. it is crucial for Freud that psychoanalysts exhibit other signs of authority to their patients. however. while psychiatrists and psychoanalysts are not drawing on their medical knowledge in their treatment of patients. that “The ego. the analogy between medicine and psychiatry and psychoanalysis must be insisted upon. so that in certain analytic situations he can act as a model for his patient and in others as a teacher. if we are to make such a pact with it. as a part of his qualifications. Freud notes. even though his cures aim at ends such as converting lesbians to heterosexuality and not at saving lives.” Freud calls an “assimilation” of the patient to what he hears from the analyst.” or may at least have a fairly normal ego.”71 This suggests that in many cases the person under analysis may very well already be more or less “normal. As seen.

a Machiavellian plot. this is precisely what has happened. it is not. . On the contrary. While not everyone was a candidate for nineteenth-century insane asylums and the normalization which took place there. was arduous. we have a transition which can be compared to the shift from early Christian penance—which. The transition from . and commercial.”72 For Foucault this recognition that everyone is somewhat abnormal does not make psychoanalysis less pernicious. including psychoanalysts themselves. and the schools. thereby anticipating what has become a global perspective in all areas—intellectual.” he writes. This makes sense because everyone can use some normalizing. psychotherapeutic confession. even while describing psychoanalysis as a normalizing procedure. to recall. cultural. and “we may express our expectation that psychoanalysis [ . . can undergo normalization and in which this therapy should be repeated and is even “interminable. in fact. the claim that everyone is abnormal simply expands the net of psychoanalysis such that no one is immune. or more forgiving than we might have otherwise supposed. As such. Although from a Foucaultian perspective this transition is worrisome. and could only occur once—to the annual and even more frequent confessional practices which followed the Council of Trent.”73 As the psychoanalyst Joseph Sandler observes. and that psychoanalysis should be used not only for the criminal or the insane but in hospitals where people with organic complaints are being treated. as Foucault notes. like Christian confession. Through this development. the workplace. and Freud acknowledges that normality is something of a “fiction”: “Every normal person. became a desired habit for everyone rather than an ordeal for a few.75 Like the progress of Christian confession. we see that “normal” egos were also under analysis.” and where therapy infiltrates into the home.” In his “Short Account of Psycho-Analysis” Freud would stress again that even the day to day lives of ordinary people could use some expert deciphering. gentler. Sandler comments on “the increasingly rapid growth of psychoanalysis in different parts of the world” and its infiltration into aspects of culture beyond the analyst’s clinic: “Psychoanalysis has had the good fortune to be an international discipline almost from its inception. meant only for extreme sinners. and as such these asylums could only take care of what Foucault calls “the most embarrassing cases.” everyone can plausibly require psychoanalysis since no one is entirely “normal. and in education and in the home: “educationists too. the move from psychiatric treatment to psychoanalysis is one in which therapy becomes increasingly gentle (from prison to asylum to couch) but also more pervasive. ] will enter into the cultural development of the next decades as a significant ferment. cannot avoid making use of the hints which they have received from the analytic exploration of the mental life of children.”74 With the move from psychiatric asylums in which only seriously disruptive individuals were forced to undergo treatment.140 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault patients were not entirely abnormal to begin with. is only normal on average. to psychoanalysis in which everyone.

Freud does observe that there are “dangers of analysis”80 in which the analyst will exploit his authority in order to dominate the patient for his own ends.” Freud describes threatening his patients in order to oblige them to consent to his interpretations. and submitting to the normalizing analyses of her peers. thus confi rming interpretations which in retrospect we.”76 As Foucault suggests. although psychoanalysis aims to normalize the analysand. In Studies in Hysteria and in his case study of “Dora. Domination In his account of his analysis of Ferenczi. and there is no sovereign who orders psychoanalysis but who is himself immune to the workings of disciplinary power involved. and will take advantage of transference. Freud’s followers.”77 Foucault states at the end of Madness and Civilization that Freud would “exploit” the power of the doctor-patient relationship. Freud writes that the other man “made himself the subject of an analysis by someone else whom he regarded as superior to himself. repeated. Freud writes that a patient beginning psychotherapy “may have brought along with him a certain amount of confidence in his analyst. and perhaps even Freud himself.”79 Foucault and Freud agree that domination takes place. with an understanding that the doctor or analyst is an authority to be respected and that they should submit to his advice.Psychoanalysis 141 sovereign power to the normalization of populations through the deployment of discourses such as psychiatry and psychoanalysis was not a decision made omnisciently by anyone in particular. this “is to secure the best possible psychological conditions for the functions of the ego. and may resort to threats and even “blackmailing”78 to do so. which will be strengthened to an effective point by the factors of the positive transference which will be aroused in him. this domination is for the patient’s own good: it enables the analysand to adjust to the expectations of society and allows for her psychic well-being. just as priests who hear confessions have to confess even more regularly themselves. much as patients entered Tuke’s and Pinel’s asylums. so the psychoanalyst is herself a subject of continual. unlike for Foucault. but also of his own earlier treatments. but for Freud. On the contrary. analysands enter psychoanalysis. however. and interminable psychoanalysis. as well as coercing them in various ways to agree with him. or would take advantage of the patient’s trust and positive transference in order to normalize him. could identify as resulting not from an objective consideration of the patient’s . and run a greater risk than laypeople of becoming scrupulous. rather than for the good of the analysand. From Freud’s perspective. or for his own neurotic psychological gratification. thinking constantly of her own psyche as she unravels the riddles of others. In making this observation Freud may be engaged in a critique not only of his peers.

” Indeed. Freud stresses that an analyst must be normal in order to normalize patients. so long as the analyst is using his authority to coerce the patient to consent to “normal” interpretations. On the other hand. non-scientific or non-objective response on the part of the analyst is considered a counter-transference. the analyst’s own unconscious fears. only partial. Second. psychoanalytic domination is worrisome regardless of whether the patient is being coerced to soothe the doctor’s socially abnormal desires or to conform to socially “normal” expectations and values. 81 Counter-transference has been defi ned by psychoanalysts in various ways: sometimes it is discussed strictly as an unconscious response of the analyst to the transference of the patient.142 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault own good but from counter-transference. if counter-transference becomes involved in a treatment.” for instance when the analyst feels hatred towards anti-social patients. Once again. At least two aspects of Freud’s view of counter-transference can be questioned: fi rst. however it is clear that psychoanalysts beginning with Freud are not always aware of their own counter-transference. while at other times any kind of emotional. According to Freud this means that the analyst is himself still excessively abnormal. and if he fails in his treatment of patients through counter-transference interference.”82 For Freud. desires. although Freud seems to have been unaware of the problems of counter-transference at the time. we see that Freud thinks that using authority to coerce patients is only problematic when it involves the analyst’s abnormal fears.” Freud had long since become aware of the phenomenon of counter-transference and writes: “Such an event may justify the words of the writer who warns us that when a man is endowed with power it is hard for him not to misuse it. or that he has not been sufficiently analyzed. even if this response is quite “human” or “normal. and desires will become reasons to manipulate the analysand or to be blind to the correct interpretation of her case. while at other times it is viewed as any transference on the part of the analyst (not necessarily transferences which respond to the patient’s transference). but simply so-called “abnormal” or “irrational” impulses to dominate. and engages in self-critique. or to “objective” analyses which do not engage the analyst’s own unconscious complexes. By the time of “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. in contrast. anxieties. and anxieties. For Foucault. sometimes counter-transference is limited to unconscious and irrational or abnormal responses on the part of the analyst. Freud thinks that counter-transference can be eliminated from an analysis. Analysts will thus not recognize “abnormality” or “irrationality” on their own parts even when it interferes with the treatment. Although Freud recognizes the problem of domination. then. as many commentators have argued happened in Freud’s own treatment of “Dora. and will see their perspective not as an abuse of power but as an exposure of the truth. . this use of domination is not considered to be counter-transference and is deemed acceptable. this recognition is. for Foucault. not problematizing domination in general. this means that he must undergo further treatment himself.

The analyst was often projected as a mother-substitute. ‘O. Hilda Doolittle. and which he also required that his followers extract from their patients.. likewise.” Freud nevertheless (or perhaps consequently) only describes the analyst as a figure of paternal transference.”84 perhaps through paternal transference. ] Freud had it both ways: Not only did he not exclude his singular interpretation of counter-transference from his own practice. and will thus submit to the analyst’s counter-transference or to the theories which the analyst desires to see confi rmed as recognitions of himself. that all except Freud do so. establishes himself as a father-figure and exerts patriarchal power over his patients.85 Needless to say Freud was far less comfortable seeing himself in these roles. and in the case of “Dora” Freud may even have repeated the role of “Frau K. It became apparent. in effect. It was seen that for Foucault the psychoanalyst. According to Wolstein: to require that all psychoanalysts exclude their counter-transference is to require. One of his patients.’”86 In “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. whereas all counter-transferences on the part of others were to be contained in order to let Freud’s counter-transferences dominate. the analysand will ideally submit to the analyst as to a “father-substitute. and that for Freud. or which he fears and is anxious will be disproven by obstinate patients. like the psychiatrist. and not only as father-figures. records that Freud said to her: “I do not like being the mother in transference—it always surprises and shocks me a little. but he also thought it would dominate the practice of all other psychoanalysts. and far less adept at recognizing himself in them than at understanding himself as a father-substitute. that some patients saw their analysts in a variety of roles.Psychoanalysis 143 Benjamin Wolstein suggests that since Freud’s theories are based on selfanalysis which he then insisted on having confi rmed in his analyses of others. and notes that he replied “ironically and I thought a little wistfully. for instance. all Freudian theory is a counter-transference on Freud’s part which is simply projected as scientific doctrine. . The metapsychology he had proposed to interpret his own dynamic psychic experience was supposed to guide interpretation in every psychoanalytic therapy. very many. Freud argues in this essay that negative transference arises consistently when male patients feel that submitting to the psychoanalyst’s authority threatens their masculinity since it entails being . . however. I feel so very masculine. 83 Wolstein thus argues that Freud insisted that his counter-transference be confi rmed in his own analyses and in those of his followers.” Doolittle asked Freud if others besides herself had taken him as a mothersubstitute. [ .” or may have been a lesbian lover/sexual confidant-substitute for his patient. It thus follows that he thought other psychoanalysts should both keep their own counter-transference in check and pattern theirs after his.

as occurred in Freud’s treatment of “Dora. Likewise. and to correct it. . of the patient who behaves “exactly like a child. As such.”90 While Freud saw such incomprehension as a form of resistance to paternal authority. he fi nds him uncomprehending and inaccessible to sound arguments.” despite the fact that it is the analysand who speaks.”93 .” but also a refusal to listen to reason. ].” the “narcissism of the analyst [ .”89 To not agree with Freud was to be childish and irrational.92 while Julia Kristeva draws analogies between maternity and the role of the analyst. since. . If Freud seems to have remained more or less oblivious to the manners in which counter-transference interfered with his own interpretations. and of the manners in which he exploited his position as a “father” to force these counter-transferences not only onto his patients but onto his followers. As father-figures. This.”91 Ralph M. Crowley would argue that in counter-transference it is often the patient who is in the role of the father for the analyst. and resistant to the ways in which his patients might situate him in roles other than a father. his patients may simply have been refusing to see him as a father. for Freud it also means infantilization: if. the analyst is in the role of a father. the doctors in Tuke’s and Pinel’s asylums were also seen as embodying reason. Ferenczi and Rank would write as early as 1923 that “the analyst plays all possible roles for the unconscious of the patient [ . whether male or female. once again. .88 Speaking is thus passive. much as Foucault notes the minority status of patients within the asylums of Tuke and Pinel. Ferenczi and Rank also recognize that it may be more difficult than Freud supposed to suppress counter-transference. this is not the case for later psychoanalysts. is obliged to be the “passive partner.144 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault in a passive relation with another man. into suppressing remarks and associations of an unpleasant nature in relation to him. If undergoing analysis entails a certain passivity or feminization. the analysand is placed in the position of a transgressive child. ] provokes the person being analyzed into pushing into the foreground certain things that fl atter the analyst and. .” Freud writes: “If the analyst tries to explain to the patient one of the distortions made by him for the purposes of defense. and resistance to their authority was not only a “parental complex.” and the analysand. or is a substitute for the analyst’s paternal transference. a submission. . . not exploring the possibility that he could be being substituted for a woman in the analysis. ] Particularly important is the role of the two parental images—father and mother—in which the analyst actually constantly alternates [ . on the other hand. was presumed to be easier for his female patients than for his male patients.87 Here. indicating that Foucault is right that for Freud this speaking could only take place on Freud’s terms and as an abdication to his authority. as Freud desired. Freud describes his patients who resist his authority as behaving towards him “exactly like a child who does not like the stranger and does not believe anything he says. the analyst is said to be the “active partner.

Psychoanalysis 145 Later psychoanalysts would go even further than Ferenczi and Rank. for instance.100 Some analysts. Clara Thompson argues that the personality of the analyst is crucial to her ability to interpret the symptoms of her patients. Moreover. however. that it should be acknowledged to patients. By the 1950s. and thus counter-transference cannot be avoided without dehumanizing the analytic encounter. As such. an increasing number of analysts rejected Freud’s view of counter-transference and came to see it as an inevitable presence and useful tool for analytic interpretation.99 This argument undermines the idea that analysts are objective scientists whose personalities are irrelevant to their work. Annie Reich. it reflects “permanent neurotic difficulties of the analyst. However most analysts continue to uphold the view that they should keep their counter-transference responses from their patients. as when. therapists should reveal their emotional responses to their patients. can. become a fruitful component of the treatment rather than an obstacle to be eliminated. in Mabel Blake Cohen’s words. For Margaret Little. For Crowley. in which the patient is often not a real object but rather is used as a tool by means of which some need of the analyst is gratified.”97 Edward S.” 94 However Reich also argues that “counter-transference attitudes are a necessary prerequisite for analysts”95 without which they would have no curiosity about the lives of others. for Crowley avoiding counter-transference would not be desirable even if it were possible. and some analysts may be better able to treat certain patients than others given that their unconsciences can relate to some patients better than to others.”96 Any interpretations of an analyst which do not engage counter-transference are bound to be limited and “mediocre. since counter-transference can “facilitate analytic understanding and progress. and could moreover be a positive component in the cure. These theorists argue that counter-transference. The analyst-analysand relation is emotive and interpersonal rather than objective and scientific. following Freud in believing that the unconscious of the analyst understands the unconscious of the analysand.98 For this reason. whether acknowledged by both analyst and analysand or simply used by the analyst. the analyst can interpret his own unconscious responses to the patient in order to understand aspects of the analysand’s unconscious to which he would not otherwise have had access. argue that unless contraindicated. and the personalities of the partners must be compatible for the relation to be fruitful. and that together the analyst and analysand can discuss and interpret these attitudes and their unconscious sources in the analyst’s psyche. recognizes that counter-transference may give rise to domination and abuse. for . and would argue that counter-transference was inevitable in analysis. that they have an unconscious and emotions like their patients. the existence of counter-transference responses simply means that analysts are human. Tauber elaborates on Crowley’s position. interpreting their own attitudes and drawing on these interpretations without revealing the sources of their insights to their patients. like transference.

“suspend her desire at the same time that she experiences it for the sake of the other. the analyst-analysand relation is ideally very far from the authoritarian relation that Freud imagined between doctor and patient. For Kristeva. told the patient that she was reminded of her own father’s death as she listened. and to explore her own intuitions about the analysand. . the psychoanalytic relation is theorized by Kristeva as a paradigm of the ethical encounter. along with the mother-child relation. Analysts also report informing patients of their dreams. for instance. The patient in psychoanalysis is theorized as the other. if anything. and also explored interpretations for their responses with their patients. Indeed. which is quite different from the original Freudian model according to which the analyst must represent an objective authority figure for his patient. without the analyst having to keep up the pretences of objectivity and disinterested authority. and even of their hostile feelings (including hate) toward the analysands. for Kristeva the analyst’s task is to respond to and “welcome” the patient’s alterity in an interpersonal relation of two subjects who are both in-process and in which.146 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault instance. as Winnicott advises as early as 1949. as for Tuke. In Les nouvelles maladies de l’âme. By allowing a two-sided interpersonal relation to exist between analyst and analysand. For Kristeva. anti-authoritarian. Pinel. such revelations humanize and deauthorize the analyst. practicing psychoanalysis is described by Kristeva as an ongoing ethical.”104 Kristeva nevertheless has a notion of a “healthy subject” which is the desired outcome of analysis. and far from wishing to assimilate the patient into the self. Julia Kristeva agrees with Melanie Klein and Paula Heimann that far from counter-transference being an obstacle to interpreting the transference and symptoms of patients. and political project. including romantic dreams involving the patients. and in which both gain insight into their selves and into each other.102 Many psychoanalysts report cases in which they revealed their emotional responses to their patients. the patient is dominant. democratic. Little reflects an egalitarian. it is “indispensible” to their cure. showing her honesty and good will to the analysand. aesthetic.101 Analysis seems to be theorized here as a journey which two psyches undertake together. and has been critiqued by Judith Butler for what this “healthiness” entails. Along with artistic practice. or from assuming similitude at the level of unconscious processes.103 The manner in which patients react to the analyst’s revelations is itself a situation which the analyst and analysand can reflect upon. allowing her to open up and speak more freely and with greater confidence. allowing the analyst to feel identification and empathy. One analyst who began to weep while her patient described her father’s death. and interpersonal trend in neo-Freudian American psychoanalysis. and Freud. the two partners in analysis have a relationship which they can both freely witness and interpret. This makes the patient trust her analyst and facilitates the treatment. It is the analyst and not the analysand who must. being indicative of other interpersonal relations in the analysand’s life.

107 From this point onwards. and to soothe their anxieties about being deauthorized.Psychoanalysis 147 the successfully analyzed subject is one who can love and be productive. to fi nd confi rmation of the theory in which they are personally and politically invested. exposing sexual abuse is a socially and . has moved in this direction. and lesbianism and the decision to remain childless are presented as less healthy alternatives than reproductive heterosexuality. it is arguably very difficult for analysts to avoid manipulating their patients to recognize their own psychic needs. or which is currently a social norm: today. asking certain questions rather than others. Psychoanalysts and psychiatrists today will thus seek out certain kinds of memories. and yet Kristeva does tend to prescribe heterosexuality and maternity for women. with a rise of consciousness about child abuse. in aiming at her own subjective notion of a cure. While analysts in the past would hypnotize patients to believe that they had not been molested since sexual abuse was not at that time part of their theory of mental disorders. unlike for her predecessors. In a case which Ian Hacking discusses. her psychoanalytic practice. in the 1970s and 80s. as well as what is permissible to discuss in contemporary society. may still tend towards reproducing certain social norms in the name of supposedly objective (but in fact homophobic and patriarchal) standards of psychic health. to fulfi ll their desires to see certain psychoanalytic theories and worldviews affi rmed. If counter-transference is inevitable and reflects unconscious responses. the patient is cured if she can love and be productive in her own ways. Hacking shows that it is far more common for psychiatrists to convince patients with no memories of childhood sexual abuse that such abuse has occurred and that these memories have been repressed. because now the trend in psychiatric thinking. rather than hypnotizing patients to believe that they had not been molested by adults in their lives when they claimed that they were. and to conform to patriarchal and homophobic values which are increasingly outdated. Psychiatrists now actively “recover memories” to confi rm their theories. feminist psychiatrists argued for a causal link between early experiences of sexual abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder. In contrast. and not only within the context of a marriage. a mental disorder with which women are now diagnosed in ninety percent of cases.105 However adamantly Kristeva may argue that the analysand is other and that the analyst “welcomes” the patient’s alterity. While it is easy to problematize Freud’s desire to have patients affi rm his often unlikely interpretations. it should also be said that other analysts may manipulate their patients to conform to values which are liberal and even radical and progressive. It would seem that for Kristeva. but that this is still an abuse of authoritative power. today analysts will lead susceptible patients to believe that molestation did occur.”106 This patient suffered from an early case of Multiple Personality Disorder. an American psychiatrist who was informed by his patient in 1921 that her father had molested her used hypnotic suggestion “to convince her that no such thing had ever happened.

and thus provides a totalizing history of the human psyche. and presents its cures as truths. is played in our lives by the mental unconscious that has so long remained unknown. whereas in the past it would have been more acceptable to deny sexual abuse. Totalization A third critique of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in Madness and Civilization is that doctors and therapists present their own views or the dominant norms of their society as universal values. and because values and political beliefs are so easily understood as objective truths. Instead.and early twentieth-century European bourgeoisie which. and despite self-conscious desires on the part of analysts to make the analysand-analyst relation egalitarian and ethical. In either case. To demonstrate the transhistorical truths of his theories. it may be claimed. it would appear that this problem is intractable. That Freud saw his theories as discoveries of transhistorical truths about the psychological characteristics of human beings. new discoveries of what has always been true but of which humans had previously remained ignorant. Because counter-transference desires and anxieties are unconscious.148 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault politically laudable activity. Freud projects the psychological traits which he has discovered in himself and (perhaps) in his late nineteenth. true of all human societies. for instance). as well as those of the renaissance Hamlet and Leonardo. arguing for instance that the universal equation “beheading = castration” means that Medusa’s head represented castration anxiety for the ancient Greeks. patients continue to be coerced through unacknowledged affective relations of transference and counter-transference to say what their analysts want them to say. describes the states which it inculcates in subjects as human destiny. whether the norm is patriarchal or feminist.”108 Freud’s theories are presented as a progress in knowledge. would be necessary for such a complex to flourish. and thus domination and normalization persevere in contemporary therapeutic practice in ways of which analysts are for the most part unaware. Psychoanalysis. This is true despite years of critiques of analytic abuses of authority. it would seem. this only corresponds to the important part which.109 The Oedipal complex is also not seen as true only of persons growing up in families structured after the manner of the nineteenth. according to this argument. In works such as Totem . He concludes “A Short Account of Psychoanalysis” with the statement: “If these contributions often contain the essence of the facts. or whether it has the conservative aim of concealing the molestation of girls or the feminist desire to expose it. the Oedipal complex is assumed to have characterized even the psyches of the ancient Greeks (the author and viewers of the original Oedipus Rex. particularly for feminists. is apparent.and early twentieth-century patients onto myths from ancient Greece.

”112 Later psychoanalyts such as Kristeva will also see homosexuality as indicative of a problem in an analysand’s psychological development. For instance. dreaming that you had sex with your mother in ancient Greece was interpreted as quite obviously indicating that you would succeed in a career as a magistrate. also seems to be true. value. complexes and desires as biological characteristics of the human psychological apparatus.110 Dreams. he perseveres in seeing activity as biologically masculine and passivity as the natural . rather than contingent and acquired through social processes unique to the individual or to her historical era.113 for instance as a refusal on a girl’s part to commit “matricide” and identify with the paternal Symbolic. thus positing heterosexuality as an objective standard. rather than revealing something about his. Moreover the drives and instincts which he theorizes are considered biologically inherited traits of all humans (or. whereas Foucault would show that the same dreams would be given drastically different meanings in ancient Greece. are assumed by Freud to reveal universal desires and to include transhistorical symbols. Freud would look even further back in history for the origins of his totalizing history.Psychoanalysis 149 and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism. nation or ethnic group). of a family. although he will observe that homosexuality was accepted in ancient Greece as it was not in his own day. this does not lead him to believe that homosexuality is only an abnormality or perversion within his own frame of reference. and everyone else’s unconscious desires. and not being “dominated by passion” are “conventional rather than scientific. Rather homosexuality is presented as occurring when something goes wrong in an analysand’s psychic formation and is a state which needs to be “cured. Freud’s. objectivity. simply because the Greeks did not understand themselves as well as Freud would understand them: for instance. Oedipus’s relation with his mother would simply have been associated with his kingship. That Freud saw his own values and those of his society as characteristic of objective psychological health. like myths. since the mother is the symbol of the city or the country. or norm which psychotherapy (and maternity) can help the subject to achieve. for Foucault. in “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (as elsewhere) “femininity” as it was constructed in late nineteenthand early twentieth-century Europe is deemed by Freud to be the “biological field” and “underlying bedrock” of psychoanalysis. and that he presented these values.”114 Although Freud is somewhat progressive in so far as he recognizes that “masculine” attributes such as intelligence. The parental complex which Foucault thinks was inculcated in patients in nineteenth-century psychiatric asylums is seen as inevitable Freud. and not.” 115 and frequently argues that we need to be careful to distinguish between social and biological characteristics of gender. in some cases. and gender is explicitly formulated as “destiny. Perhaps most infamously of all.111 In this context. that he saw the complexes and desires which the modern family structure produces as characteristic of all human psyches.

In a “normal” woman. however. and the superiority of the penis is taken as a self-evident biological fact. Writing in 1937 in a period following the flurry of feminist activity between the wars. or a heterosexual sexual relationship. who possesses a penis. In “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. if we understand the phallus not simply as a bodily organ but as a symbol of power and prestige. Among other things. independence. “And we can only agree that she is right. when we learn that her strongest motive in coming for treatment was the hope that. a consequence of biological facts. this means that one of the primary roles of psychoanalysis is to tell women that they cannot have what the penis represents in society: authority. and to some extent Freud. To be made “normal. Such patients need to be convinced to give up their hopeless striving for male privilege. this would be a conservative political task. after all. Each sex has a “proper”117 attitude. Thus Freud described it as natural that men will fear being passive. according to Freud. but Freud presents it as a simple outcome of biological facts. futilely envying men’s penises and wanting to have the masculine role. and maternity and marriage and passivity defi ne the attitude which is “proper” to women. activity. and to have a penis. This depression owes “to an internal conviction that the analysis will be of no use and that nothing can be done to help her.150 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault feminine attitude. since passivity is feminine and the fate of women. this means instructing women that they cannot have penises.” it is taken as a truism that men and women and boys and girls will all want to be men. to be masculine. and that girls and women will temporarily resist their fate. their “normal” role.” although Freud observes that this is “asking a very great deal. “the appeased wish for a penis is destined to be converted into a wish for a baby and for a husband. the lack of which is so painful to her. who compensate for their innate inferiority through marriage and motherhood. Consequently femininity is naturally feared by “normal” men and eventually accepted by “normal” women. and indeed their biological end. Public hygiene and moral synthesis are once more passed off . would thus see the task of making women realize that they should get married and have a baby as a crucial element in the analysis of female patients. Freudian psychoanalysis aims to “educate” both genders into their proper attitudes. but marriage and the birth of a child (preferably one with a penis) which is presented as the “destiny” of women. which is here represented as inevitable. Freud notes Ferenczi’s argument that making women adjust to their lack of a penis is “a requirement” which must be “mastered” “in every successful analysis.”116 Here it is not only heterosexuality. because masculinity and penis-possession are inevitably recognized as objectively superior to being a woman and lacking a penis.” Freud goes on to say.”119 As many feminists have noted.118 As a normalizing practice.” women must adjust to the society in which they live.”120 Ferenczi. she might still obtain a male organ. a different life from that which was available to women. Freud notes that this “is the source of outbreaks of severe depression” in women undergoing analysis.

which privileges childhood years. it can only be treated by drugs. constraints which may only have become apparent after childhood. and thus to prevent the patient from challenging the status quo of the present. and therefore oblige their patients to seek the sources of depression in family genes and history rather than in broader social causes such as sexism and racism.121 much as African Americans fall into depression at higher rates than white Americans. If depression is hereditary. A related and important manner in which Freud attempts to obliterate any possibility of social and political critique on his patients’ part is by situating the cause of all psychic disturbances in the fi rst years of life and in the relation of an infant or young child to her parents. A patient in analysis with mental disorders caused by the constraints placed on her by living in a racist. results in social reform at all. ageist. Freud writes that “There can be no doubt” that “every alteration of the ego [ . it will most obviously be of the family and not of society more generally. The aim will be to make the patient adjust to society. to reflect only on the power dynamics of her immediate family and long-gone years. and a medical degree and knowledge of biology is exploited to present purely ideological messages as anatomical destiny. social prejudice against disability and age and so forth that occur at a society-wide level can be the cause of mental disorders such as depression. psychiatrists insist on seeing depression as hereditary. will be “educated” to see the source of her disorder in an Oedipal complex. thus denying that the cause of mental disorders can be social rather than familial. political.” and describes these years only in terms of relations between children and their caretakers and family members. or attitudes of her society as a whole and in the present. This means that Freud makes it impossible in advance to argue that sexism. . to neutralize her discontent through reflections on the past. Patients on this view cannot change to overcome their depression but can only be tranquilized to behave normally. That social.Psychoanalysis 151 as medicine. and thus to not challenge the norms. values. is provided by the pharmaceutics industry. or if it is determined by one’s childhood. ] is acquired during the defensive struggles of the earliest years. “unexceptionally” or non-rebelliously. Today women continue to fall into severe depression at far higher rates than men. As seen. . like Freud’s Russian patient who had every reason to be sad. Freud notes that many of the women whom he educated in feminine destiny fell into “severe depression” upon learning of the hopelessness of their transgressive desires.122 and the guarantee that they will nevertheless behave. homophobia. If psychoanalysis. sexist. and social change is not at issue. and not only in so far as these prejudices occur in the family and in the early years of life. and personal transformation is made to appear impossible by totalizing histories is the most problematic and conservative . racism. or homophobic society. at most “triggered” by an event in adulthood. Despite the fact that it is women and black people who fall into depression more often than men and white people. and in this he is followed by almost all psychoanalysts.

and why did these truths emerge now? It is not coincidental that arguments which limit the causes of psychic discontent occurring predominantly in oppressed groups to the family home. He substituted the ontogenetic perspective for the phylogenetic thesis. rather: what are the political and social effects of believing that these claims are true. or else as genetic. White Masks. there is the sociogenetic [ . Fanon raises many critiques of psychiatry and psychoanalysis which are similar to Foucault’s. or . In the latter work. and such trends continue in contemporary psychiatry and psychoanalysis. demanded that we take account of the individual factor. and would draw occasionally on Freud. . As early as 1952. Dr. asking instead how the teenagers involved have been raised and how their parents are responding to their behavior in the home. . what other truths are being masked by these truths. and this time the critiques come from a practicing psychiatrist. Phil dealing with the case of the Jena Six. it does not seem to be a necessary characteristic of either psychiatry or psychoanalysis. in Black Skin. or to internalize the white “collective unconscious” of their oppressors. Fanon would use psychiatry and psychoanalysis. the psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon wrote: Freud. POST-FREUDIAN REVISIONS Although Foucault’s “totalizing history” critique seem to be fair of nineteenth-century psychiatry and of Freud and of many later psychoanalysts as well. In The Wretched of the Earth.152 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault aspect of theories such as Freud’s. through psychoanalysis. similarly. We will see that the alienation of the Black is not an individual question. universalizing and infantalizing them as parental complexes. and to problematize and offer political solutions to the manners in which blacks are dominated and normalized in order to be assimilated into white society.” but. Phil McGraw repeatedly expresses exasperation with the black guests who wish to consider the Jena case as racial or political. and the psychiatric. ] let’s say that it has to do with a sociodiagnostic.123 Once again I would stress that the question is not whether or not theories of biological determinism and familial influence are “true.124 In this work Fanon drew on psychiatry and psychoanalysis in order to critique totalizing histories which intersected with norms such as whiteness. arose at a moment in history when women and racial and ethnic minorities were struggling for equal rights at a societal level.125 in order to critique colonialism. Relating a patient’s depression and even disorders such as anorexia to heredity prevents patients from seeking political or social change. psychoanalytic. Beside the phylogenetic and the ontogenetic. and pharmaceutical treatments of psychiatric patients today continue to function in this fashion: in a recent episode of Dr.

127 At around the same time as Black Skin. In The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression. Oliver. they have either ended up simply pointing out the insufficiencies of psychoanalytic theory or have combined psychoanalysis with social theories such as Marxism and feminism. arguing that psychoanalysis is unacceptably authoritarian in its privileging of the analyst as the locus of truth. In her study. like Fanon on whom she draws. and have often noted the limitations of this approach. collect it. and theorizes paths toward psychic healing through processes such as sublimation and idealization. the Lacanian-trained psychoanalyst Félix Guattari would also challenge the dominating. In contrast to the totalizing stories of subjectivity which have often characterized psychoanalytic theory. Oliver develops psychoanalytic theory in order to explore experiences of alienation.Psychoanalysis 153 from within a psychological discipline and without entirely rejecting it. Another and more recent exception to the totalizing trends of psychoanalytic theory is Kelly Oliver’s work in the philosophy of psychoanalytic theory. in Chaosmose Guattari asks: “How to produce it [subjectivity].” Guattari pursues micropolitical means of subverting capitalism. and forgiveness. is embedded. for Guattari. such approaches still fail to move beyond the most proximate relations of the individual such as the family. Moreover. and shame as direct consequences of historical and contingent social oppression.126 Similarly. and functions as “the best capitalist drug” by keeping the analyst’s desires confi ned to the safe space of the clinic. in which Freudian analysis. they still do not take into account the larger social and economic context in which subjectivity is formed. depression. as Foucault had done. and challenge these in ways which Freud did not. and critical theorists would also draw on but reinterpret Freudian theory in order to mobilize it to bring about change. writing that the police and army in Algeria serve the same function as “counselors” and “professors of morality” in Europe. this time class change. enrich it. draws parallels between psychiatrists and psychoanalysts and the police and army. individualization. Later. to the use of psychologists as torturers. rather than militantly engaged elsewhere. With concepts such as “schizoanalysis. For instance Fanon. Fanon draws attention. Wilhelm Reich. As such. White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth were written. As Oliver points out. like Foucault. Marxist psychoanalytic theorists such as Herbert Marcuse. normalizing. will diagnose society rather than individuals as pathological. reinvent it permanently in order to make it compatible with mutant Universes of value?”128 Guattari redefi nes neuroses not as abnormality but as a manner in which capitalism maintains normality: mental illness is not a state which requires normalization but an effect of normalization. while other theorists have applied psychoanalytic theories to social phenomena. while these theorists may consider influences on children such as the gender of care-givers. In either case psychoanalytic theory is not fundamentally revisioned. Oliver’s . and totalizing tendencies in psychoanalytic practice.

and so that they may undermine the claims of universal and oppressive histories rather than present their moral and political claims as biological facts and medical truths. and also to develop a new model of subjectivity. and homophobic society. as Toews observes. we cannot know whether. In Oliver’s model of psychoanalysis. drawing for instance on the ethical philosophy of Lévinas. It nevertheless seems that these supposedly non-normalizing practices may simply have adopted more liberal norms. while Fanon is laudable for his anti-racist approach to psychiatry and psychoanalysis. anti-colonial. and feminist rather than sexist. Because Oliver only writes generally about a non-oppressive and ethical psychoanalytic practice. forgiveness. these norms may maintain traces . so that they may challenge the norms of society rather than reinforce them. Oliver points out that he reproduced sexist values and desires in his writings. to use Freud’s word. undergone years of self-critique. but we saw that Kristeva nevertheless falls into repeating homophobic and patriarchal norms. something like this is also described as Kristeva’s objective in ethical psychoanalysis. and ethics rather than in oppression and alienation. just as Freud’s norms appeared liberal and objectively true to him and to his followers. and homophobia are cast into question rather than perpetuated by analysis. racism. In fact. the relation between analyst and analysand is not theorized as one of domination but of ethics. and does not practice psychoanalysis herself.”129 What the works of Kristeva. imitative. response. and unable “to measure the gravity of events. but to respond to the individuality and uniqueness of the analysand’s story. or into a new politically-correct norm either. describing women as childish. these values might be liberal. or homophobic. the totalizing histories of sexism. Of course. Certain strands of psychoanalytic practice have consequently attempted to transform themselves so that they are ethically responsive rather than authoritative and disciplinary. and many of these critiques have addressed concerns which Foucault raised. and into attempting to inculcate these norms in her patients in the name of an objective standard of psychic health. and probably also in his practice. racist. however. Fanon. as in the case of feminist psychiatrists “recovering” memories of incest in Multiple Personality patients. racist. Guattari and Oliver demonstrate is that psychoanalytic theory has.154 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault undertaking is hence more radical in that it seeks to transform rather than to apply psychoanalysis so that it is adequate to the task of explaining and healing the affects of social oppression. The analyst responds to the analysand in this model of psychotherapy rather than “assimilates” her. and forgiveness. one grounded in sociality. she would not also fall into the familiar traps of manipulating her patients to conform to her values. instinctual. The purpose is not to normalize the patient into a sexist. if she were to practice. norms which to the left-wing analyst and reader seem like objective standards of psychic health. In such a process. even if. Similarly.

and criticizes something not entirely dissimilar to his former critique: “It is very well to look back from our vantage point and remark upon the normalizing impulse in Freud. despite the effects of transference the analysand is less likely to be assimilated into the desires and expectations of the analyst. AND IDENTITY Repression By the time Foucault wrote the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. or may attend to one form of oppression only to perpetuate another (sexism. REPRESSION. but that we should cultivate practices in which autonomy can prevail. Assimilation may still exist. and proponents of the repressive hypothesis are parodied as speaking in the following terms: . less likely to accept the views of the other as scientific truths. However. and homophobia in some cases. by 1976 Foucault seemed tired of hearing about psychoanalysis’s conservatism and normalizing potential. and to also be true of contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice despite years of self-critique. even if it is today still marginal. racism. Foucault’s critiques of psychoanalysis in Madness and Civilization are thus found to have been true of early psychoanalytic theory and practice.”130 Foucault states. changes in norms and values. this de-authorization of the analyst through her admission to counter-transference is also an extension of confessional subjectivity. between parents and children. and it is less likely to be harmful in cases in which the subject is not being dominated or has a greater ability to resist. Nevertheless. If the relation is understood by both sides as an interpersonal and ethical relation between equals. namely normalization and totalization. the arguments that Freudian psychoanalysis is politically reactionary and socially normalizing were common and even beginning to grate on Foucault’s nerves. and the best of intentions. Foucault does not think we can eliminate discipline and domination altogether. such that the analyst as well as the analysand must now avow her transference. or as a relation in which it is perhaps even the analysand who dominates. political. or in which the relation is not established as an authoritarian one. theoretical. or homophobia in the case of Kristeva). the problems of totalization and normalization are arguably far less acute in an analyst-analysand relation in which domination is less pronounced. as shall be seen in the next section. The current trend to deauthorize the analyst.Psychoanalysis 155 of sexism. Having raised versions of these critiques himself in 1961. CONFESSION. is thus crucial in that it at least partially prevents the harm of the more intractable dangers of psychoanalysis. or unconscious and personal anxieties and desires. for instance. in the case of Fanon. In these cases analysts may continue to manipulate patients to confi rm their moral. teachers and students. but this is arguably true of all human relations.

]131 According to this view. So far as Foucault targets a psychoanalytic theorist by name. a scientific guarantee of innocuousness.” in that safest and most discrete of spaces. this is Wilhelm Reich. without ending up with decidedly abnormal (actively incestuous. but in most cases to reaffi rm their repression. tends less to allow sexual drives to be satisfied than to strengthen the psychic dams which contain them. as a legalistic and linguistic . the point is to make what is unconscious conscious. . such theories involve a misunderstanding of how power works today. a view which Foucault is now critiquing. but not to allow instincts to be satisfied. such medical prudence. Foucault’s critique of the “repressive hypothesis” aims not primarily at Freud. external and internal processes of restraint. and so many precautions in order to contain everything. Reich and Marcuse would reject Freud’s argument that sexual repression is necessary for society to function and are examples of proponents of what Foucault calls the repressive hypothesis. and this fortification of repression occurred in the name of normalization: one could not liberate the desires of the id. and suppression”134 —and use psychoanalytic tools to critique rather than to bolster repression/oppression on an individual and societal level. even if sometimes repression can makes patients sick. This portrayal of Freud is not inaccurate on Foucault’s view. with no fear of “overflow.”133 For Freud. . while fortifying the rest. . As Freud himself makes clear. . Reich and Marcuse understand repression not only in Freud’s sense but also as “oppression”—Marcuse writes that “‘Repression. but with such circumspection. but also upheld that repression. it is just getting a bit old and has been put to ill use. and we might think that he also has Herbert Marcuse in mind. for instance) analysands. the normalizing functions of psychoanalysis [ . even in its most sophisticated form (Lacan). although analysis might aim to bring repressions to light. In other words. civilization depends on sexual repression.156 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Perhaps some progress was made by Freud.135 Repression.’ and ‘repressive’ are used in the non-technical sense to designate both conscious and unconscious. ] Thus. one denounces Freud’s conformism. its ultimate goal is not to abolish all repressions but to eliminate only a select few. or encourage one’s patients to satisfy them. In these cases. yet another round of whispering on a bed [ . Freudian analysis aims less to liberate sexual instincts than to domesticate them. between the couch and discourse. Foucault will criticize psychoanalytic theorists of repression because. Freud took some steps towards overcoming sexual repression. becomes accessible to all the influences of the other trends in the ego and no longer seeks to go its independent way to satisfaction.132 The objective of analysis is described by Freud as a “‘taming’ of the instinct”: “the instinct is brought completely into the harmony of the ego. but at a discourse of sexual liberation which is now dispersed throughout society.

other psychoanalysts maintain and indeed profit from the pervasive belief in the repressive hypothesis. assumes an anachronistically sovereign model of power. psychoanalysis. As such. have far surpassed the possibilities of being heard. so that some individuals have even offered their ears for hire. Beyond Reich and Marcuse. and that sexuality is identity. In his discussion of the “repressive hypothesis” Foucault is most interested in criticizing MarxistFreudians. he is not primarily criticizing Freudian psychoanalysis. the repressive hypothesis subtly coerces patients to put themselves in a relation of disciplinary power. for they accept Freud’s hypotheses that we are sexually repressed.Psychoanalysis 157 model of power which sees power as something which says no (whether this results in repression. but they do not see how positing repression places subjects in relations of disciplinary power. and nor do they question the notion that sex is identity and destiny. and as such listening to confessions can be commodified. or in the production of desire. extra-linguistic manners in which disciplinary power in fact works. even while it is itself a deployment of disciplinary power. misses the complex. and psychoanalysis—at least superficially purified of Freud’s prudishness—is but one outlet among . Moreover. both in its Marxist-Freudian and Lacanian forms. when Foucault criticizes the repressive hypothesis. the only civilization in which officials are paid to listen to all and sundry impart the secrets of their sex: as if the urge to talk about it. and that sexuality is identity. Foucault writes that the hypothesis of repression. explains the market value attributed not only to what is said about sexual repression. after all. for instance in the relations between analysts and patients. but also to the mere fact of lending an ear to those who would eliminate the effects of repression. The desire to tell the secrets of one’s sexuality inundates discourse to an extent that there are now more mouths speaking than ears available to listen. and. Marcuse and Reich. and thus that we need sexual analysis. and the interest one hopes to arouse by doing so. by convincing patients that they are sexually repressed.136 The service provided by psychoanalysts is here described as merely accommodating a supposedly sexually-liberating confessional phenomenon which exceeds it. even while they criticize Freud for his conservatism. Psychoanalysis may have helped to inculcate the desire to confess one’s secrets. like Reich and Marcuse and contrary to Freud. as for Lacan). but those who accuse Freud of not going far enough. extra-legal. as for Freud. In Foucaultian terms. Proponents of the “repressive hypothesis” insist that psychotherapy should liberate desire rather than bolster its repression. demonstrating the self-deception and hypocrisy involved in its claim. but by the 1970s this desire had gone beyond the bounds of the clinic and needed no further inculcation. see themselves as liberating individuals from sexual repression through confessional speech. Ours is.

contrary to appearances. presenting it under the more alluring guise of sexual freedom. The fact that so many things were able to change in the sexual behavior of Western societies without any of the promises or political conditions predicted by Reich being realized is sufficient proof that this whole sexual “revolution. Foucault argues that Reich’s historico-political critique of sexual repression has “always unfolded within the deployment of sexuality. As seen earlier in this chapter.” Consequently. .” this whole “antirepressive” struggle. the normative and disciplinary aspects of the .158 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault others for this discursive flood. and not outside or against it.137 This problem with Reich is. but nothing less [ . the function of psychoanalysis. that some forms of psychotherapy and psychoanalytic theory exist which neither focus on sexuality nor aim to discover identities. but is merely a redirection of this deployment. a critique which Foucault would make of all psychoanalysts. whether politically reactionary like Freud. but rather theorize subjectivity as in-process. or liberal like Reich and Marcuse: in either case. Foucault’s primary target within the psychoanalytic tradition is thus Marxist-Freudians who take up and de-technicalize the repressive theory. this talk of sexual liberation is not a radical break with Freud or with even more conservative tactics in the deployment of sexuality. is the production of sexuality as the secret of identity and an impulse towards identity-fi xing introspection. in contrast to some of the problems discussed above. Foucault argues that. he is no longer preoccupied with these critiques and is instead targeting those who situate themselves as politically liberal and anti-conformist or engaged in a project of antinormalization. It will be seen below. represented nothing more. . and who thus speak out against Freud and for the liberation of sexuality by adopting the repressive hypothesis. which is intertwined with confession. Confession It was seen at the beginning of this chapter that one critique of psychoanalysis is that its theories of repression and the unconscious place patients in a relation of disciplinary power. however. dependent on analysts to tell them who they are since they believe that they are inaccessible to themselves. Of one such theorist of anti-repression and sexual liberation. ] than a tactical shift and reversal in the great deployment of sexuality. What this discussion of The History of Sexuality: An Introduction shows is that while the later Foucault does not deny that Freudian psychoanalysis is normalizing and politically conservative. profiting on the sexual revolution whose self-deception Foucault exposes.

Such an acknowledgement is. and confessing is. an admission of a lack of scientific objectivity which is considered shameful. e. a confession. but will also understand the analysand and will enable the analysand to confess to transference. and “by its help. the admission of counter-transference seems to exasperate the problem. or will ease the other’s counter-confession. but a confession on the part of the analyst. determined not to speak about something. injuries thus require an “adequate reaction. even if psychoanalysts are now “liberating” counter-transference from its history of “repression. even as it addresses the issue of domination. A second critique of psychoanalysis in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction is that it holds out the misleading promise that confession functions therapeutically. In terms of the confessional critique of psychoanalysis. the reminiscences of hysterics.” In confessing counter-transference. drink) became painful. the remedy. however. the analyst interprets her own responses by introspecting on her past and her complexes. for instance. while language can be a way to “‘blow off steam’” or to express an injury. Studies on Hysteria. As noted in the previous chapter. and this is taken to hold true both inside and outside the clinic. or responding to the insult she had originally “swallowed.Psychoanalysis 159 analyst-analysand relation have been critiqued and transformed to some extent within the history of psychoanalytic theory and practice. because never expressed in words. with the exception of one occasion during which she told a series of stories.”142 If this confession or putting into words did not occur at the time of the memory.”140 Freud describes a patient who. apparently responding belatedly through tears to whatever traumas she was silently reliving. Language can usually substitute for actions. the experience could lead to an hysterical symptom—for instance when Anna O. Thus not confessing can be the cause of an illness.139 In order to heal. aptly. swallowing in general (food. At last speaking of what had disturbed her. an affect can be ‘abreacted’ almost as effectively. or when another patient was forced to “swallow” an insult. however. By confessing to counter-transference the analyst will not only better understand herself.” these patients were purportedly healed. and that it inculcates a habit of confession in subjects . “‘suffering in silence’” is experienced as a “‘mortification’ [Kränkung]. In this work it is argued that while most memories are subject to a “fading away” process. remain “attached to the memory. simply wept during each session under hypnosis. the doctors write.143 Although the charge that psychoanalysis presents confession as an instantaneous cure.”141 Speaking.” literally making patients ill. when.g. she lost the ability to speak at all (in her native German at least). this critique is only fair of the very earliest work by Freud and Breuer. thus disseminating the compulsion to confess. it is a lamentation or giving utterance to a tormenting secret. particularly when analysts are willing to deauthorize themselves by acknowledging counter-transference.”138 According to Breuer and Freud. is an “adequate reflex.

Pychoanalysis is not responsible for the theory of confession as cathartic. is true of this very early work. For instance she writes of one analysand: . it was also seen in Chapter Two that the idea that confession functions as a “talking cure” is a notion which was quickly dismissed within psychoanalytic theory itself. for this idea. in some “egalitarian” versions of psychoanalysis. can analysis of the subject occur which does not embark on the quest to “discover” her “true self”? And. Tower writes: “The patient comes to the analyst for the purpose of being changed. and so one works on knowing who one is even if this is to change who one is. as seen in Chapter Two. it is quite clear that patients usually undergo psychoanalysis because they are unhappy with some aspect of themselves or their lives. writes of analysis as helping to “discover” and “fi nd” the “real self” of the analysand which has been repressed—and this true self is the normal.160 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault through the promise that it will be therapeutic. and indeed maintained its centrality. both preceded Freud (in nineteenth-century appropriations of Aristotle and in Dostoyevsky. beginning with Freud. or were forbidden to refuse to confess anything. So the questions are: Can confession in psychoanalysis be reconceived such that it is divested of its normative and normalizing functions? Or. The psychoanalyst Janet MacKenzie Rioch. for instance. this changing of the self is often understood in psychoanalysis not as a real transformation of the subject into something new. for instance) and persevered despite his rejection of it. Absolute disclosure was one of the primary “rules” of psychotherapy. and today. Moreover. sexual or otherwise.”145 Learning the truth of oneself is nevertheless usually understood as necessary for such change.144 Confession was no longer a cure in itself. it is also true that Freud never removed the practice of confession from psychoanalysis. even if this required breaking oaths to not disclose political or state secrets. and not only to “discover” their selves. and he values the procedure only if he feels changes are under way. while analysts who confess to counter-transference simply take this confession further by rendering it mutual. Freud’s patients were not “allowed” to keep any secrets from him. but it was a crucial component of the cure. but as self-recovery or re-discovery. as “finding” one’s “true” self. As the psychoanalyst Lucia E. who soon distanced himself from the theory of “abreaction” described above. does the quest for one’s “true self” always need to deploy discourses of sexuality? Identity In fact. At the same time. and thus enter analysis in the hopes of transforming their selves. and Freud would decline to treat patients who resisted confessing everything to him. the confession of the analyst is also deemed therapeutic to the patient. happy one.

” The essence of the self is assumed to be hidden in psychoanalysis. and cosmetic surgery and sex change surgery are couched as liberations of the patient’s beautiful or otherwise sexed “real self. If. Why must analysis be understood as “fi nding oneself”? The answer. Moreover this achievement will not be understood as the becoming of a new self. the analysand will be directed to achieve the analyst’s notion of normality.” Rioch therefore has a fi xed notion of what kind of subject the analysand should become through analysis. The language of “self discovery” thus functions to mask the process of normalization and moral synthesis. was finally able to emerge and become again active in analysis.” the analyst is merely a facilitator of a natural process which has been inhibited. Rioch writes. an enemy of negative socialization and psychologically crippling repression. who must therefore undergo analysis in order to know who she has been all along.’ the self refound in the personal relationship between the analyst and the patient. Psychoanalysis on Rioch’s terms can once more be criticized for its normalizing aim. thin self. and any non-active.146 Through analysis. this more active image of the analyst would more readily be seen as a kind of social cloning. a transformation of the analysand into something that she was not before.”148 For Rioch. “reality gradually becomes ‘undistorted. but as a recovery of the analysand’s original or “real self. inaccessible to the analysand. Cressida Heyes has shown that not only psychoanalysis but various other professions which alter the bodies and minds of individuals to make them fit a normalizing ideal are presented today not as changing subjects but as allowing them to be as they “really” were all along: dieting is thus presented by Weight Watchers as freeing the dieter’s true. . analysts were understood as turning patients into new and more “normal” entities.Psychoanalysis 161 But there remained. another patient “found his repressed self [ . although “snowed under” and handicapped by all the distortions incurred by her relationship to the parents. once more. and to become what she always already was. despite the necessity for the rigid development of the patterns towards the mother and father. and so. but still vital experience of self. the “end” of analysis “is achieved when the patient has rediscovered his own self as an actively and independently functioning entity. a deeply repressed. non-independent self is deemed “unreal. it would seem. we might question why this cannot be understood as an invention of something new. a positive creative production undertaken by both partners in the analysis.”147 With the help of the analyst. ] and it is a real discovery. which most closely approximated the fullest realization of her potentialities.”149 The “real” self is only said to emerge when it fits this predetermined description. on the contrary.” rather than enabling her . This. but even if we approve of Rioch’s notion of normality and her practice of helping her patients to attain it. the repressed elements of his own personality. . is that in helping analysands discover their “real selves. which one might call her real self.

162 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault to be other than what she was and what she desired instead to be. Theorizing psychoanalysis through Foucault’s so-called “return to subjectivity” would be “a return with a difference” and “indelibly marked by its passage through laborious procedures of archaeology and genealogy. and at the same time changes herself through ongoing practice in order to achieve this desired self-transformation. O’Grady argues that other forms of psychotherapy can undo discipline. O’Grady works as a counselor in women’s health. is mistaken from a Foucaultian perspective. Psychoanalysis here is disciplinary but it is also a technology of self-care. Toews suggests that we need to think about psychoanalysis in terms not only of the archaeological and genealogical works. assuming an essential and hidden self. While Foucault’s fi nal works on the care of the self explored alternatives to psychoanalytic subjectivity.’ and for reflective self-awareness of the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of self-definition or self-making. She actively pursues this vision of a “normal” self in her decision to undergo analysis with the psychoanalyst of her choice. and following other Foucaultian feminists such as Jana Sawicki argues that women are particularly prone to practices of disciplinary self-policing. were available within psychoanalytic theory and practice. Toews would like to theorize psychoanalysis itself as a technique of self-care. which in the case of women can result in relentless self-criticism and obsessive rumination on self-denigrating thoughts. but also situates psychoanalysis in terms of self-fashioning practices. but at the same time the confusion and juxtaposition of the language of self-change and self-discovery show the interweaving of technologies of domination and practices of the self.” similarly but more concretely. He writes: Foucault seemed to have no great confidence that the resources and perspective for an investigation of the contingent ‘descent’ of psychoanalytic ‘truth.150 The language of self-discovery.”152 Toews would thus like to think about historicizing psychoanalysis ‘after Foucault’ in such a way that accounts for the archaeological and genealogical works. As such. John Toews has also argued that psychoanalysis can be a care of the self. and wishes to believe that such a self is inherent in her. she consents to a notion of normality in the belief that attaining it will make her happier. Helen O’Grady also argues that psychotherapeutic practices can be understood as practices of self-care. The patient in Rioch’s care consents to her notion of what a “normal” self is. and facilitates discipline. but in terms of the fi nal works on self-governance as well. It was the fashioned rather than selffashioning subject that Foucault identified with psychoanalysis. In “An Ethics of the Self. While some forms of psychoanalysis can be disciplinary.151 Despite Foucault. O’Grady sees some forms of therapeutic practice aimed at correcting these forms of debilitating psychological behavior as freeing .

Fanon also contests psychiatric and psychoanalytic arguments which posit essential identities. In no case does Fanon describe the patient’s childhood. and is on the side of revolution. and. the cause of the mental illness is obvious. a work of self-creation. Fanon is explicit that his own use of psychiatry is political rather than scientific.154 While other psychiatrists. He thus prefaces a description of psychiatric case studies he undertook in Algeria with the declaration: “It is superfluous to mention that we are not providing a scientific work. or make any reference to the patient’s sexuality. Feminist forms of therapy such as those that she is engaged in. psychoanalysis is an on-going aesthetic practice. and not to “discover” sexual identities understood as hereditary or innate. sees psychoanalysis as disturbing rather than discovering identity.”155 Importantly. who theorized a form of psychoanalytic theory and practice which cultivated a fragmented subject. Notably. For instance. and are themselves a practice of self-care and a care of others. in each of the case studies which Fanon goes on to describe. Psychiatric arguments thus give scientific pedigree to racist beliefs in the superiority of Europeans over their colonized subjects. Kristeva also theorizes both partners involved in analysis as subjects in-process. For Kristeva. and which describe revolts on the part of the colonized as the expression of unconscious frustration complexes. and practiced collective forms of analysis which did not introspect on the specificities of individual participants. Finally.Psychoanalysis 163 women from the constraints of self-policing. like Guattari. O’Grady argues. She also argues that women— and some women more than others—are socialized to be more concerned with the care of others than with the care of themselves. disguised their political desires as medical scholarship. and in this respect is close to Foucault’s idea of an aesthetics of the self. other exceptions to the tendencies of psychoanalysis to posit and “discover” a hidden “real self” include Guattari. can teach women to practice care of themselves.156 or describe innate or universal . Fanon considers arguments which explain psychopathological behavior on the part of colonized peoples through recourse to heredity. and. psychiatry has used that behavior as a justification for colonization. PSYCHOANALYSIS VERSUS POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT Like Kristeva and Guattari. O’Grady theorizes and practices psychological forms of therapy which aim to change gendered identities which are understood as products of socialization.153 Fanon exposes and refutes such uses of psychiatry and psychoanalysis for unacknowledged politically conservative ends. supporting the colonization of Algeria. points out their often political motivations. like Foucault. Fanon discusses psychiatric writings which relate the alleged criminality of Algerians to their heredity or biology. Rather than seeing antisocial behavior as a consequence of colonization. and in each case it is colonization.

157 As such. and thus the work of discipline will not be undone through rational discussion. For Fanon. notably. when psychiatrists argue that North Africans are hereditarily pathological. The cure which is required is nevertheless clear. for talk of equality and human rights. or at least make sure it is ready at hand. for they are psychically eaten up by their repressed anger. the Algerians must end their colonization by themselves. Only by acting against their colonizers. Far from advocating discursive or confessional practices as therapeutic. Such an attack. Fanon argues. but none of these outlets solves the problem once and for all. Fanon says that the colonized subject will pick up his machete. is the only cure for the affects of colonization. and thus the symptoms always return and require a new outlet. The repressed hostility of the colonized has found temporary outlets in frenzied dances and in violence against one another. when hearing the discourse of the colonizer. This is somewhat similar to the argument seen above regarding Foucault’s description of normalization: it is the body which is disciplined. for words. Fanon argues. some such results have already been achieved in both Algeria and France. the mental illness arose either from being physically tortured or from working as a torturer. or by acting politically. and not by repressing her sexual instincts. but has simply taken the wrong target as a result of the internalization of colonization which inhibits the colonized from attacking their colonizers. In none of the cases does Fanon suggest a psychiatric or psychoanalytic cure. Fanon notes. resentment. Fanon repeatedly underscores that the Algerians have no use for discussion. The torturer is not going to get better unless he gives up torturing and goes home. and aggressivity—and not. but only through physical practices. and the tortured will only heal when they remove the cause of their illness by expelling their colonizers. for the aggressivity involved has been misdirected and does not remove the cause of neurosis. as demonstrated by their pointless and ruthless violence against one another. With the liberation movement. Fanon argues that the subject will only change her situation and change who she is through . will the Algerians decolonize their psyches and cease harming one another once and for all. Consequently. In many cases. therefore.158 The language of colonization has not been reason but corporeal violence. In each case the patient has been made ill not in early childhood. but either by being colonized or by being a colonizer. however. Fanon responds that their violence is actually on the right track from a psychological perspective. and Fanon spells it out elsewhere in The Wretched of the Earth: an end to colonization. or attempt to discover and liberate the patient’s real self.164 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault psychological complexes or desires. that all these terms strike them as vacuous while only their own actions will heal the debilitating psychic affects of colonization. by their repressed sexuality—and these affects will not be given an outlet if the colonized do not bring about decolonization by themselves and through action. not by her parents. and thus the cure must also take place through bodily action and not through discussions or ideas. more specifically.

or a one-on-one relation with an analyst. the changing of society must come fi rst in order to bring about transformed selves. White Masks cannot change himself or rid himself of the internalized affects of racism through discussion.”160 At the same time. dismisses individualizing confessional practices in favor of action. While obviously more radical. and in the end Fanon abandoned his psychiatric position in Algeria in order to participate in the FLN. Fanon is not advocating psychotherapy or reforms which remain within the confi nes of the psychiatric sciences. as in his own use of psychiatry. and the cure is political action. transforming these from within. the cause of mental illness is described by Fanon as political. Some of these “self-critiques. on the other hand. such “talk” can be conceived of as a practice. as in the cases Fanon cites. Fanon uses his psychiatric and psychoanalytic training to explain why psychoanalysis and psychiatry are not the answer to the psychic affects of oppression. like O’Grady and Kristeva. normalization. political. whether it is used to preserve colonization. As such. and the function of psychiatry and psychoanalysis is. showing that. however. have managed to stay within the discipline of psychoanalysis and the confi nes of the clinic. or which must be undertaken through the subject’s own actions within a political movement. and Kristeva.and politicalchange rather than the discovery of (sexual) identities. and in the process have . and it is necessary to change the self in order to change society.” such as those of O’Grady. The racialized subject discussed in Black Skin. and Fanon argues that group political action rather than psychoanalysis is in order. Oliver. Although these arguments confl ict as well as overlap. introspection.Psychoanalysis 165 action. Fanon argues for a cure which psychoanalysts and psychiatrists cannot provide. In contrast. to aid the process of decolonization. or. although he continued to practice psychiatry in Tunisia and to see his political and psychiatric activities as intertwined. Fanon writes within a psychological discipline in order to advocate self. and for Kelly Oliver “talk” is necessary to change the self. While O’Grady and Kristeva see psychotherapy as a care and an aesthetics of the self which can counter social oppression. likewise. Ultimately. all of Foucault’s critiques of psychiatry and psychoanalysis exist within the psychological disciplines themselves. what they show is that psychiatry and psychoanalysis have raised the same critiques of their disciplines as arise in Foucault’s writings. It has been seen that Fanon rejects confession and the deployment of sexual discourses as much as he rejected totalization. Fanon is arguably the most complete example of a figure within psychiatry and psychoanalysis who raises the problems with these disciplines which concern Foucault. and why action is required rather than words—and as Freud wrote of the psychoanalytic cure: “Nothing occurs but talk.161 For Fanon. and not through introspection or “discovery” of an innate self. however marginally. and. Crucially. like Guattari. as Toews indicates. and domination.

as seems to have been Foucault’s belief. the first half of this chapter considered Foucault’s reasons for seeing psychoanalysis as disciplinary rather than as a technology of the self.166 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault (in however marginal ways) transformed themselves such that practices of self-care may be integrated into what Foucault has shown to be disciplinary technologies. have simply shown the high risks entailed by this choice. or whether psychoanalysis has transformed itself—or can at least potentially do so. sometimes in relatively mainstream psychoanalytic thought—as in the increasingly common acceptance of non-authoritarian models of psychoanalysis—and sometimes in more marginal critiques such as those of Fanon and Guattari. as Toews and O’Grady suggest. Like all disciplinary practices. as said. as Todd May argues—such that it can function as an aesthetics of the self. forms of psychotherapy such as psychoanalysis are among the most prevalent options which subjects have to choose from. and Foucault. and the question has simply been whether in the practice of psychoanalysis discipline inevitably dominates over self-care. I have agreed with Toews that the critiques of psychoanalysis which Foucault raises exist within the psychological disciplines themselves. psychoanalysis is also a technology of the self. In our cultural field. discipline is always intertwined with techniques of self-care. while the second half of the chapter has considered whether. and according to Foucault they will draw on the resources of their cultural field in order to do so. and this chapter. therefore. but some practices are more intractably disciplinary than others. Ultimately subjects must decide for themselves how to practice self-care. . psychoanalysis may also function as a practice of self-care. Responding to these differing views. For Foucault.

but because so many readers want to read them. or a police officer. This chapter will focus on the desire of confessional subjects not to tell their own confessions. one always confesses the other. or when the analyst’s desire became implicated in his confessant’s story.4 Confessing the Other . as in the case of the scrupulous priest or the counter-confessing analyst. however. this has not been separable from a discussion of the confessor’s desire—or lack of desire—to hear the confession. whether the confessor is a lover. and on the pressure exerted on the listening other to respond. and have attended less to the manipulation of the one who listens. but more generally in the “memoir biz” which has exploded in recent decades not only because so many authors wish to write autobiographies. or the confessant’s compulsion to speak. may become the one who speaks. The one who listens. A rebounding form of discipline has been observed. but to hear the confessions of others. the previous three chapters have been concerned with the domination and disciplining of the speaking subject. . These chapters have focused primarily on the inculcation of a desire to confess in the subject. as for instance when priests themselves grew scrupulous. Circumfession 2 Following Foucault. The focus of this chapter thus entails a shift away from the subject of confession to the confessional other. . La femme qui attendait 1 I confess my mother. This desire for the other’s confession occurs not only in the hopes of an immediate reciprocation and recognition of one’s own confession. a priest. La faim d’autrui . internalizing the desire to confess which he aims to inculcate in the other. la soif d’aveux. . The current chapter will diverge from Foucault’s interests by concerning itself with the ethics of the relation between confessant and confessor. As is evident. —Andreï Makine. . —Derrida. and away from an analysis of the confessant’s desire to speak to an examination of her desire to hear . a psychoanalyst.

”4 Miller is not only involving the other in her “crime” in order to spread the blame. of a partner who is not simply an interlocutor but the agency that requires the confession. Hegel. and to reciprocal forgiveness and psychic peace. Lévinas. 3 In her defense. pardon. ] always requires a partner in crime. reconcile. Miller argues that “the writing autobiographical subject [ . Miller responds to charges of “nouveau solipsism” and “moi-ism” directed against herself and other academics who have engaged in “autocritography” or academic autobiography. weighs it. it will be seen that when the other resists doing this violence to herself. and this will also be argued to be a violence to the other. Foucault also stresses the necessary presence of an other in confession when he writes: “one doesn’t confess without the presence.”5 Judith Butler repeats Foucault’s point almost verbatim when she states that “An account of oneself is always given to another. . assimilated or “translated” despite herself into the desires of the confessing subject. Butler assumes that confession is ethical in . it will be argued that the demand that the other confess. or that she reciprocate a confession and counter-confess.” Nancy K. Butler. imposes it. but in order to argue that if “it takes two” then autobiography is about relationality. and more on considerations of confession in the writings of Sartre. to perform an autobiographical act. to community. so great is the desire for confession that she may fi nd herself confessed for. OR THE SAME In “Reading Spaces. The other’s forgiveness and one’s own opportunity to forgive are both deemed necessary for the subject’s peace of mind and for community. present the expectation of the other’s confession as an ethical demand.”6 As in the case of Miller. it takes two to make an autobiography. As seen.” but like Miller and unlike Foucault Butler adds an ethical assumption when she continues: “and this other establishes the scene of address as a more primary ethical relation than a reflexive effort to give an account of oneself. punish. to feel forgiven by the other. Nevertheless. The subject is understood as requiring the other’s confession as recognition of their shared humanity. as well as the manners in which the counter-confessional response of the other is viewed as necessary for mutual recognition and forgiveness.168 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault a response. . Correspondingly. To be considered in this chapter are thus the confessant’s need for a confessional response from the other and her desire to control that response. whether conjured or existing. THE CONFESSIONAL OTHER. and that this in itself makes autobiography ethical. Moreover. is very often a request that she do violence to her alterity. and moreover to forgive her. and intervenes to judge. at least the virtual presence. Confession as giving rise to a bond of humanity. this chapter will draw less on Foucault than previous chapters have done. and Derrida. console. Put another way.

as he acknowledges. as in the transference relations that Butler discusses. or more of the same. there is no other. we see that another person is necessary for confession. and that Dostoyevsky’s subject is never alone. In Dostoevsky. was possible only by portraying his communion with another. her function is merely to voice one aspect of the hero’s internal dialogue.” Some other must stand in for “everyone else. it was noted that the question of the other for whom he writes is a matter of anxiety. and that the otherness of the other is an impediment to the confessing subject’s desires.10 When the other speaks in Dostoevsky. . In each of these cases. to control or manipulate her. Mikhail Bakhtin has similarly argued that the subject’s relation to the other is crucial. as Dostoevsky understood it. although this is a relationship which he hopes to have entirely on his own terms. as Bakhtin observes. or other “worshipers. for God. but that the confessant wants to determine the response of the confessor. In so far as Augustine wrote for other people to read. a projection of the confessant herself or. as Augustine did not know whether he wrote for himself.”8 If Pontalis is right. this other.” in other words. and all others are collapsed into an undifferentiated role of recipient of the hero’s self-revelations. the subject’s sounding board. but can only reveal himself through addressing another: “to portray the inner man.”9 Nonetheless. while the other in the confessional relation is described by Foucault as an active agent. the Underground Man addresses himself to another. one part of his conflicted self. is a generic other. but. Discussing confession in Dostoyevsky. an other who does not respond in ways not already provided for by Dostoyevsky’s confessing subject. rather than to be a distinct or truly other subject voicing different concerns. Dostoevsky’s confessional subjects do not want “strangers” in their conversation. Like Augustine. As noted. Augustine’s stipulates this desire for the same because he fears that non-Christian readers would mock him. In the case of Rousseau. even though that other person may simply be “conjured” by the self. In the case of Augustine. and thus he tries to control the response of the other who hears his confession. perhaps to recast the other according to a pattern of relations in her own life. it is even clearer that the confessant is writing to be read by others. she may nevertheless be merely “virtual” or. Pontalis states that the desire to write autobiographically “is correlative to the existence of Rousseau. The need for another in confession has been seen in previous chapters. Rousseau does not write for himself but for the relationship between himself and another person. traversed from one end to the other by the desire less to know himself than to be known. to use Butler’s word. according to Bakhtin. he specifies that they should be Christians.”7 others like him. a re-creation of her past. enabling him to pursue his private self-explorations.Confessing the Other 169 virtue of the necessary presence of another person. and this is just “a matter of form” that makes it easier for him to write. “conjured” by the self. there is the hero and there is “the other” or “all others. or for other human beings. As such.

but her relations with others. but she requires their confessions as recognition of her own. memoir writing is “not about terminal ‘moi-ism. and to permit. she writes with a “je transpersonel. integrated into their bodies and minds.” or that she is writing for others at the same time. their difference. Although Miller argues that this is true of both male and female autobiographers. and tries to assert herself as a representative or exemplary subject and thus impose her experiences as a generalized truth. even when this involves denigrating certain groups of women such as lesbians. my sensations and my thoughts should become writing. she also notes that memoir writing is associated with and predominantly practiced by women. to project herself onto others and to have her flesh and thoughts internalized as theirs. Augustine and Monica.11 Ernaux writes: “What bothers me about the term ‘autobiographical’ is that one always has the impression in the strict sense that one will be talking about oneself and one’s life.’ as it’s been called. while relational identity has been presented by feminist scholars as particularly characteristic of women’s senses of self and women’s ways of writing. with the other. but rather a rendez-vous. She writes. on their bodies and their souls. my existence completely dissolved into the minds and the lives of others.170 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Perhaps the most explicit contemporary expression of this manipulation of and imposition of sameness on the confessional other is found in Annie Ernaux. even as she implies a grand narrative or totalizing history of autobiography as universally. and in particular to impose her “woman’s” truth on all women.”14 Ernaux’s autobiographical aim is thus a form of psychological colonialism.”17 .”16 As such. for instance: “And the real end of my existence is perhaps only this: that my body.”12 Ernaux claims that in confessing her own life she is describing that of others.15 Claims about women and relational subjectivity have been put forth to argue for a feminine or feminist ethics distinct from traditional masculinist ethical concerns with autonomy and individualistic rights and freedoms. as it were. always and necessarily relational for both men and women when she writes: “It became clear to me [ . As such. When Miller claims that memoirs “always require a partner in crime. . Ernaux is not interested in other people. that is to say something intelligible and general. but because if they do not she will try to impose those experiences upon others. beginning with St. who counter-confess or share their commonality with Ernaux. ] that this relational model binding self to other historically has shaped the narrative of most autobiographical experience. who argues that when she writes about her self.13 Ernaux occasionally recognizes that she is able to speak for all women not so much because her own experiences actually characterize those of others. Miller is casting autobiographical writing as ethical in a feminine or feminist register.” she is arguing that autobiographies are always written in a “relational mode” or concern not only the autobiographer herself. and in her wish to speak and write for them rather than to explore. . This goal is manifested in Ernaux’s desire to fi nd readers who identify with her experiences.

she claims that reading memoirs provides “building blocks to a more fully shared national narrative. Although ethics must involve some account of relations with others. your love affairs. but why we read them. and yet we would not argue that this makes them ethical acts. Miller also claims to identify with the memoirs of writers to whom she is less obviously connected. including the apparently narcissistic writings of Rousseau and Ernaux or even of the isolated Underground Man.”24 Nevertheless. your ambitions. however passive or involuntary.”23 and “we both shopped at the same store in the East Village. . you can’t help but remember your own: your parents. . or how unlike one’s own life the memoir may appear.”18 As she writes.” Miller argues. and that we read autobiographies out of a desire to meet the other. The fact that it would be hard to describe one’s life without mentioning other people does not mean that describing one’s life is necessarily an ethical task. and moreover not every act which necessarily involves others is relational in a positive ethical sense. not all relations with others are ethical or entail ethical acts. but about autobiographical reading. a means to remember one’s own life. however. Murder and rape are thus inherently relational. ] I knew him too! I dated his brother!. “what seems to be going on between memoir writers and their readers is a relational act that creates identifications.”20 Miller argues that memoir-reading is an aide-mémoire.Confessing the Other 171 Miller is surely right that one can fi nd mention of some other. in all autobiographical or confessional writings.” Apparently assuming American autobiographies. These are autobiographies by women writers who lived within blocks of Miller and went to the same New York schools and universities. this rendez-vous is not an encounter with alterity but a means of identifying with the other. whether human or divine. no matter how exotic one’s taste in memoirs is. Miller calls this “allo-identification. Miller argues that the “relational mode” extends not only to writing memoirs but to reading them. 22 Miller explores in depth memoirs by two other “nice Jewish girls” like herself who also grew up in New York in the 1950s as examples. This. and Miller describes moments in reading when she could exclaim and scribble in the margins “Keith Gibbs! [ . however. does not in itself mean that the genre of memoir is fundamentally and transhistorically concerned with relationality. For instance.”19 As such. This is not “navel-gazing. however. or at least the painfully felt lack and absence of others. or why they sell. It would also be difficult to commit murder or rape without the involvement. since the navel is shared: one is gazing at other people’s navels to see how much they are like one’s own. The majority of Miller’s article is not about the relationality of autobiographical writing. This is inevitable since the lives of humans always involve others. Miller attempts to explain not only why we write so many autobiographies. As Miller describes it. she describes reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s . “When you read the lives of others. a shared narrative. and calls this “collective memorialization. of another person.”21 What is assumed in advance is a collectivity.

“told in memoirs they give you just what your unrecorded history lacks [ .”28 Miller’s description of memoir-reading may be accurate. for Miller. but in such a way that Hong Kingston’s descriptions of being Chinese-American and poor are written over. Memoir-reading is thus a process of putting another person’s life into one’s own language. mean very different things. California into Manhattan. . it may be true that in reading about the lives of others we are likely to reflect upon our own.”29 Miller writes. or feel content in our own lives for having avoided them. 26 however in this case we see her translating Hong Kingston’s life into a mirror of her own.” Miller writes.”30 And yet. As such. “a good cause. Although it is hard to say how everyone reads memoirs. and comes to make sense. of paths taken and not taken. and “Memoir paradoxically is the most generous of modern genres. one family. “[H]owever hellish the lives. and poor into middle-class. one might respond again that not all relations with others are ethical—that rape is not the most “generous” of crimes.”27 One’s own life is remembered. whether it is because we have had similar experiences or dream of having them. how do you separate what is peculiar to childhood. memoir reading does not function like a mirror. ] a narrative through which to make sense of your own past. one reads the other’s life in order to think about one’s own. Perhaps one likes best the memoirs which one can either relate to or which describe a life one would like to have had. This is not a very accurate translation. Miller writes that one reads oneself “across the body or under the skin of other selves. and instead are the reader’s own notions of middle-class and Jewish in New York.172 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault description of growing up Chinese-American and poor in post-war California in the following terms: Maxine Hong Kingston puts the problem this way: “when you try to understand what things in you are Chinese. however. This seems like narcissism. . “I inserted myself into the memoirs of others for a good cause. even if the other is merely a path back to the self and her difference is only an opportunity for comparison with the reader herself. from what is Chinese? What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies?” How. however harmless. As such. In either case. an egocentric reading practice. In either case. can I separate the story of my life from that of any nice Jewish girl who grew up middle-class in New York in the 1950s?25 According to Miller. or through identifications and disidentifications. to insanities. through comparisons with the other’s life. the reader brings it back to the self.” simply because it always involves another person—and moreover it might . but as translation. to poverty. translating Chinese-American into Jewish. your mother who marked your growing with stories. and yet Miller describes it as ethical because it involves a relationship between self and other. since poor and middle class. for instance. I ask myself in translation.

However. The confessional subject. which Miller acknowledges that she herself is. we also expect and solicit confessions in a more immediate way. out a sustained interest in ourselves.”32 Clamence tells his confessor. Dostoyevsky’s characters. her uniqueness. a demand for self-judgement and counter-confession on the part of the interlocutor.” and then to elaborate on this identification or disidentification.” thus assuming in advance that the confession of the other will be a brotherly one. and her experience. What Hong Kingston has been trying to describe has been erased. Miller has missed her point. or in order to spark further confessional self-reflections. Even our voyeurism is narcissistic. as when Miller “translates” Hong Kingston’s sentence. and has not responded to her ethically or otherwise. Be assured that I will listen to your own confession with a great feeling of fraternity. desires the confessions of others. not in all cases because we are interested in her life. and Miller will “translate” the confessions of others into her own terms. We listen to the other’s confession for an opportunity to say “me too” or “not I. as direct responses from the person in whom we have ourselves confided. for talk shows and reality T. thus creating the recognition that she desires but which the other’s story may not immediately provide. beyond this diffuse desire for confessions which fuels the market. has been subsumed into the life of the reader through a series of identifications which obscure the specificity of the other. Modern “man” being a “confessional animal. but because the other’s response recognizes our own confession and allows us to go on confessing. a demand for a kind of common transparency in the assumption of generalized guilt. This explains “the market” for the “memoir biz. assimilated her into the same.V. but. We confess in intimate conversation and then await the other’s reciprocation. and Ernaux each wish to fi nd affi rmation from their brotherly or sisterly audiences. “Do try. a counter-confession which will recognize Clamence as akin. as Miller shows. has obliterated her difference. However we do not necessarily want to hear the confessions of others out of a genuinely ethical interest in them. as well as literary confessions. Hong Kingston might well feel that far from having been read or rendezvous’d with generously. in Camus’s The Fall.Confessing the Other 173 not be generous to the other to identify with her. to have the other “go one better. just as Augustine. Peter Brooks notes the manner in which confession can be a manipulation of the other in an expectation of reciprocation when he writes: “Confession on this account turns into a subtle act of aggression. particularly when this identification means obliterating all that is particular to her and replacing it with one’s own life.” we do not only want to confess.” or the desire for a proliferation of confessions on a cultural level. has refused to read her. but desires them as more occasions to reflect on herself.”31 Brooks discusses the manner in which Clamence. Recognition can most easily be given through a counter-confession which echoes and confi rms the generalizable truth of . Rousseau. to confess again. confesses in order to invite the other to do the same. we also want to hear confessions.

Confession is often a dialogue in which both parties try to extract an echo from the other. while in other cases. legal. and may “translate” difference into echo and mirror if the need should arise.174 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault the original confession but. that he is “not a homosexual” “in the sense in which this table is not an inkwell. it is the confessant who manipulates the response of her listener. CO-CONFESSIONS Champions of Sincerity Jean-Paul Sartre calls the person who demands confessions from others “the champion of sincerity. community. For instance. Although this is not true of Sartre’s example. as Miller shows. as Aron himself had done.”34 And yet the champion of sincerity is also in bad faith because he wants his friend to admit that he is a homosexual in the sense that an inkwell is an inkwell. the champion of sincerity asks a friend who has had homosexual experiences to confess that he is a homosexual. of affi rmation. and especially confessions which one has made oneself. It seems that an aggressive tendency to assimilate occurs frequently in the confessional relation rather than being a perversion of it. and Jean-Paul Aron condemned Foucault for not having “confessed” that he was dying of AIDS. or to admit to homosexuality as an in-itself identity that denies the possibility of transcendence. the champion of sincerity would thus be fi xing the other in an identity which would rob him of his freedom to be otherwise. it may be “translated” as such. As Sartre realizes. the friend who has had homosexual experiences but has not confessed that he is a homosexual is in bad faith because he is denying his homosexuality in the sense that he thinks his past has nothing to do with himself. or forgiveness. the fact that it reoccurs in so many of the cases of confession discussed above and in the previous chapters suggests that a manipulation of the confessional other is in fact common. even when it does not echo the subject’s confession. it may be the confessor who manipulates the confessant to admit to what he wants to hear. One demands confessions of others. In Giving an Account of Oneself. and thus not perverse in a statistical sense. In Sartre’s example. the scenario of championing the sincerity of others occurs frequently following confessions on the parts of champions of sincerity themselves. Judith Butler argues that while it is in fact ethical to ask the other “Who are you?. and psychoanalytic forms of confession discussed in the fi rst three chapters. Although Brooks calls this a “perversion” of confession. such as the religious. “confessed” homosexuals demanded that Foucault should likewise declare his homosexuality.” we cannot expect the other’s . Such confessions which repeat one’s own bring with them a desired sense of recognition. In some cases. of shared humanity.”33 In the example that Sartre explores.

or ask that the other say. if we seek the fulfi llment of our desire to know the other. as Augustine repeatedly asks God. The ethical relation.Confessing the Other 175 answer to provide us with a notion of her identity as something fi xed or knowable. Butler thus argues that we cannot expect consistent and coherent. and contests forms of narrative therapy in which an analysand constructs a story of who she is once and for all. who he or she is. It was seen that for Butler. According to Butler. we would be willing that the lack. and so part of the explanations for our own lives escapes us as well. our stories of ourselves will always relate to other people and will always lack coherence and closure. and yet the presence of the other is crucial for Butler. finally or defi nitively. second. since life might be understood as precisely that which exceeds any account we may try to give of it. While this seems fair. and would never make such a confession herself. however. but with how we tell her who we are. the other “interrupts” our stories in at least three ways: fi rst. Unlike for Miller. In the fi rst chapter of Giving an Account of Oneself. for Butler. or how we listen to what she says. whether or not she has asked. the notion of “accountability” resembled . alterity. our stories always involve relations with others whose actions we do not necessarily understand: the intentions of others escape us. our accounts of who we are necessarily involve how we came to be subjects. as for Miller. third. fi nal and defi nitive self-narratives from ourselves or others. it will be important not to expect an answer that will ever satisfy. For each of these reasons. all of our autobiographical practices involve others. our stories also involve the person to whom we tell the story and as such will vary in each telling. Consequently. Butler goes on to state that the necessary incoherence of our narratives of our selves “in no way exonerates me from having to give an account of myself. “Who are you?. they are nevertheless obligatory.”36 and thus argues that while confessions need not be coherent. for Butler the necessary intervention of the other in the stories we tell about ourselves introduces alterity rather than sameness into our confessions.” but without expecting a response or a fulfillment of one’s desire. 35 As we kill desire by satisfying it. By not pursuing satisfaction and by letting the question remain open. Butler would never ask her friend to say he is a homosexual in the way that an inkwell is an inkwell. is thus a desire to know the other. however. as for Sartre. we let the other live. For Butler. Butler is less concerned with how we ask the other who she is. even enduring. For most of Giving an Account of Oneself. we kill the other if we make her fulfi ll our desire to know her once and for all. Butler writes: As we ask to know the other. as subjectification occurs through social processes and contexts which precede us and of which we are not entirely aware. to ask. and thus the freedom or vitality of the other be extinguished.

or to conform to the analysand’s transference desires. Butler also makes clear. Giving an account of oneself. However Butler quickly sets aside this model of “accountability. it is harder to understand Butler’s description of the analysand as engaged in an ethical task. as for Miller. to have someone receive one’s words. Surely psychoanalysis is a luxury which most people cannot afford rather than an ethical obligation. Butler’s argument that we are ethically obliged to give (unsolicited. and the account expected of the subject functioned as a response to allegations that she has caused the suffering of others. the ethical responsibility involved now seems to be in the other person’s court. If one is asked in psychoanalysis to give an account of oneself. And yet as Butler herself writes: “One goes to analysis. and moreover as an instance of an ethical obligation of which one may not be exonerated.”38 and the analyst. as she shows “giving an account of . bewilderingly. nonjuridical) accounts of ourselves is not justified or explained. in psychoanalysis one is asking another to hear one’s unsolicited story. In this sense the refusal to “exonerate” the subject of her accountability indeed sounds like an ethical claim. and is one which may be justified. thus acknowledged at least potential responsibility for the suffering of another. The problem is that psychoanalysis is not an example of “other interlocutory conditions in which one is asked to give an account of oneself. it is only because one has paid the other person to ask that question.” arguing that we are not only responsible for giving an account of ourselves in legal. Butler argues that we need to explore “other interlocutory conditions in which one is asked to give an account of oneself. Butler’s primary model for giving an account of oneself is psychoanalysis.” On the contrary. as if going to psychoanalysis were a response to the other’s call. and yet Butler treats the role of the analysand in psychoanalysis as if it were a quasi-Léviniasian response to an ethical demand. it is simply being assumed that any act which is intrinsically connected to others. or penal contexts in which we are charged with harming others. or her description of giving an account of oneself within psychoanalysis as ethical engagement. and it seems that for Butler. may not be encountered or responded to as she is. or must defend ourselves against or accept accusations of guilt. but may be made to perform roles from the analysand’s past. and usually to listen to one’s own stories of suffering. I presume. judicial. in the fi rst pages of Butler’s book.176 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Lévinasian ethical responsibility. but is making a request of the other to listen.”37 and it is these other conditions with which her book is primarily preoccupied. Problematically for her argument. Nevertheless. One is not reacting to the other’s request that one speak or to her suffering. In psychoanalysis one is thus not responding to the other’s desire to know so much as to one’s own desire to tell. While one can make sense of Kristeva’s and Oliver’s arguments that the role of the analyst is an ethical one of responding to the other. not because one is responding to an original ethical demand on the other’s part. As such. the “ethical” dilemma which interests Butler is how to account for oneself in this context.

but discusses the gay movement and lifestyle at a more general level. is ethical. and then this ethicality continued to be assumed even though the model of “giving an account of oneself” had radically altered to entail not only juridical responses to the other but psychoanalysis and. here Butler is making an even stronger argument: not merely that confession is didactic. this might make us recall what Foucault calls the “speaker’s benefit. not every act which necessarily involves others is ethical. and is thus ethically required. This. for Butler insinuates that there is a confession in Foucault’s work even while acknowledging that he did not intend to give it: describing Foucault’s publication of the memoir of Herculine Barbin. telling one’s life story to a friend “over wine.Confessing the Other 177 oneself” to be. or that confession attempts to incite the other to follow suit. In Barbin’s very detailed and personal account of herself. Foucault’s refusal to confess is problematic. although not mentioned in this work. Gender Trouble. however. As was said above. recognition. reciprocation.” If it seems quite gratifying to think that describing one’s life to another on a couch or over wine is an ethical responsibility. Moreover not every act which is ethical is ethically required. yet again. In the context of Butler’s assumption that we are not “exonerated” from giving an account of ourselves to others. “Foucault. Butler would thus be seeking a far more intimate confession from Foucault than could be derived from his interview. if indeed he is didactic. The champion of sincerity in Sartre’s discussion decides to provide the other with the confession that s/he refuses to make. but now it is an illusion of ethicality rather than political engagement. in other examples Butler mentions.” Foucault writes of the speaker’s benefit to describe the illusion of confessants that they are politically engaged. It seems that “giving an account of oneself” was fi rst established by Butler as ethical by considering it as a response to accusations from the suffering other.” As Sartre writes of such confessions made for others: . never becoming personal. but that all didacticism betrays confession. Butler writes. however. we fi nd that. Is this a displaced confession that presumes a continuity or parallel between his life and hers?”39 It is worth noting that Foucault’s “one interview on homosexuality” to which Butler refers never discusses his own homosexuality. and that how we give this account is a fundamentally ethical question. a refusal to confess has led to at least the suggestion of a confession made by another. requires several problematic assumptions. Looking back to Butler’s earlier work. imply that an unintended confession is at stake? Although I have been arguing that confessants desire the agreement. nevertheless presents Herculine’s confession to us in an unabashedly didactic mode. He states: “He’s just a pederast. But why would Foucault’s didacticism in his introduction to Barbin’s memoir. or assimilation of the other. who gave only one interview on homosexuality and has always resisted the confessional moment in his own work. whereas in Butler’s case the speaker’s benefit seems equally illusory.

We have here only one episode in that battle to the death of consciousnesses which Hegel calls “the relation of the master and the slave. of extracting or providing a confession which was not given. as presented by Foucault.” A person appeals to another and demands that in the name of his nature as consciousness he should radically destroy himself as consciousness.”41 Sartre describes this death as a “victimization” of the other. Nevertheless.” which erases a disturbing freedom with one sweep and which aims at henceforth constituting all the acts of the Other as consequences following strictly from his essence. RECOGNITION AND FORGIVENESS In “To Forgive. seems to be a case of championing the sincerity of an other. that the two of them will co-confess and thus recognize one another as the same. . Butler makes clear in her later work that demanding a confession of another which would fulfi ll our desire to know him. that he should entrust his freedom to his friend as a fief. . In being the champion of the other’s sincerity I ask that the other enslave himself in order to satiate my desire for recognition and mastery. and this in a scenario which calls an episode from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit to mind. She thinks that her confession is also a confession for the other person. criticizing Hegel’s analysis of confession and forgiveness in the beautiful soul dialectic as “a sort of narcissism. to the extent that he demands that freedom as freedom constitute itself as a thing.” we should not expect our desire to know to be fulfi lled. a request that he should “radically destroy himself.” that he should give up his freedom for my comfort. . is a form of “quick death. and thus because she assumes that her confession will be reciprocated. despite the fact that the other person does not consent to this confession and at least initially refuses to make it for herself.178 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Who cannot see how offensive to the Other and how reassuring for me is a statement such as. in order that the friend should return it to him subsequently—like a suzerain to his vassal. The agent is confessing for himself and for the other. That is actually what the critic is demanding of his victim—that he constitute himself as a thing. “Who are you?. . Butler’s reading of Barbin’s memoir. “He’s just a pederast. 40 As seen. to fi x him once and for all and thus obliterate his freedom and end our restless desire.”42 In this section of the Phenomenology. he pretends to judge.” and as a “logic of identification with the other that is assumed by the scene of forgiveness. Butler warns that although we might ethically pose the question. acting conscience confesses only because she has realized that the judging conscience is also guilty.” Derrida focuses on another episode from the Phenomenology. The champion of sincerity is in bad faith to the extent that in order to reassure himself. Unfortunately.

for Hegel. which for Hegel is the same thing. and despite the fact that both parties are in fact transformed by the act of recognition. as our individualizing confessions show. Hegel thinks that it is only because the agent assumes she can subsume the other person into her confession and confess for their mutual guilt that she confesses at all. or “repels this community of nature. She confesses because she perceives that the other is the same as her and because she expects reciprocation and recognition in return. but in Hegel this only makes us the same. Hegel thinks she will waste away in her isolated asociality. Much as he assumes that one will only confess because one assumes the confession of the other. of subsuming the other into the same. However the fact that I am myself changed when I assimilate you into me. to one’s particular bias or flaws. in Foucault’s words. or will forgive her. The acting conscience is thus shocked when the beautiful soul does not reciprocate.Confessing the Other 179 Moreover. part of a universally singular humanity.43 In confession as Hegel describes it. she is different too. or. since we require that each of us confess to her singularity and individualism as a sign of a shared humanity. Hegel assumes that one would only forgive the other if one realizes that one is similarly guilty. one is “individualized by power. Confessed singularity proves that the other is the same. Rather. estranged from others. when she resists identification and subsumption into this logic of sameness. or sinfulness. Butler argues that although the subject is accused of assimilating the other into the same by requiring her recognition. the beautiful soul will eventually give in and admit that she is like the other in their mutually evil singularity. one confesses to one’s singularity. or that recognition is always ecstatic. and so one only co-forgives just as one only co-confesses. We are all different or particular. or that colonialism effects both colonizer and colonized. So long as the beautiful soul does not confess. does not seem to make the “imperialism” of which Hegelian thought is so often charged any more ethical. what is interesting is the moment when the other does not reciprocate or does not provide the confession which is expected of her. just as Hong Kingston’s individualizing story of being poor and Chinese American in California is read by a middle class New Yorker as making her alike: look. but to the same guilt of singularity. Consequently.” and yet this singularity or individualization is not allowed to be ethical difference or unique to the subject. the alterity of an other. Hegel believes that this is a tacit confession that she is also guilty. just like us all. not to the same specific act. we universalize singularity through mutual confessions. if the beautiful soul forgives. and she is hence socially compelled . Confession and forgiveness for Hegel take place as a means of identification.” Although. the subject is always altered in Hegel by her encounters with the other. imperfection. just like me. even if this is a sameness of mutual singularity. Confession in Hegel assumes in advance that the other will confess to the same thing—that is. and what the subject does in this situation. as for Foucault the process of being individuated by power normalizes the subject into yet another docile body.

.180 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault to confess. [ . and thus. Rab decides to take the . While faults that are only against God need only be forgiven by Him.”47 The offended party may refuse to appease the offender: “The other can refuse forgiveness and leave me forever unpardoned. and. the pardon Lévinas describes must clearly be asked for by the offender himself and from the offended party personally.”48 Significantly. as for instance the confession of Mitterand for France. If she repels the community of nature.” is writing in response to Jankélévitch’s thoughts on pardoning.’”45 God forgives crimes against other people only. “‘If a man commits a fault toward another man and appeases him. the community will repel her. Lévinas writes: “No forgiveness is possible without having obtained the appeasement of the offended!”46. Lévinas. compel her to confess. but only innumerable face-to-face relations. like Derrida in “To Forgive. this expectation of confession as co-confession or as recognition of sameness from the other is a violence to alterity and moreover cannot allow for true forgiveness since it is situated in an economy of exchange: your confession for my granting you social re-integration. ] There can be no forgiveness that the guilty party has not sought! The guilty party must recognize his fault. A story from the Gemara illustrates this point: Rab has been offended by a butcher. for the Gemara states. . he waits for the butcher to come asking for appeasement. and will be extracted through social and psychological pressure if no longer through physical torture. The confession of the other must be had one way or another. if forgiveness is fi rst sought from the offended persons directly. the day “when faults committed against God are forgiven. faults against neighbors must be forgiven both by the persons offended and by God. When the butcher does not come.” Emmanuel Lévinas makes explicit the argument that one cannot confess for the other person and cannot even solicit her confession. In a talmudic reading entitled “Toward the Other. will never be received. in Derrida’s analysis of Hegel. opened by Jankélévitch and preoccupied with its application to contemporary Germans. God will forgive. it seems. Some pardons. At Yom Kippur. Lévinas is discussing passages from the Mishna and Gemara that consider Yom Kippur. Forgiveness must therefore be asked for in order to be received. the Germans: “Toward the Other” was fi rst given in October of 1963 at a colloquium of French Jewish intellectuals on the subject of forgiveness. or of a pope for the Catholic Church. in that order. The offended party must want to receive the entreaties of the offending party. in a way.”44 Trespasses are divided into faults against God and faults against other people. moreover. “It is thus a very serious matter to offend another man— forgiveness depends on him. or not pardoning. Lévinas’s reading of the Mishna and Gemara underscores the radical impossibility of both confession and forgiveness without openly avowed contrition by the person immediately responsible made face-to-face with the person harmed. and thus there could not be confessions or acts of forgiveness for nations or groups of people. since the dead are dead and cannot request or grant them.

would strip her of her freedom and her responsibility for her own forgiveness.”51 In this later work. of being guilty for him and for what he does. it seems that there is no problem with “reversals of obligation” from other to subject. Perhaps this “murder” refers to the murder of the other person’s freedom and responsibility to decide to confess for himself. Lévinas writes that this is not a story about a miracle performed by God. however. Being responsible for the other’s doings and sufferings may require that I confess to that responsibility—to my guilt for what she has done—rather than that I confess for her. and. nor with taking on the “enormity of the responsibility” of the other. the very possibility of ethics for Lévinas. of taking on his obligation of guilt. or responsible for what they do or suffer. The butcher refuses to confess but continues about his work. If it were the case that we could speak for others and even for groups of other people. hammering on an ox head is killed by a chip of bone lodging in his throat. or perhaps it is a murder of his alterity. which decision to confess Lévinas thinks ought to be the responsibility of the butcher himself. For Lévinas. it seems we nevertheless cannot take on the responsibility of confessing for other people. this would mean that the Germans as a group cannot be forgiven. but remains a lesson within the interhuman regarding the “enormity of the responsibility which Rab took upon himself” when trying to force the opportunity for confession and forgiveness on the other.Confessing the Other 181 other man’s responsibility onto his own shoulders by going to the other man to facilitate his seeking of appeasement and thus aid him in fulfi lling his duty on the Day of Atonement. nor even forgiven individually without prior expressions of contrition. and thus deny the inter-human and the face-to-face. is that there can be no “reversal of obligation”50: the offended cannot forgive the other if the other has not confessed. Each German must be considered one by one. it would seem that to confess for the other person would deny the freedom of the other to not say what is expected of her. or of forgiving them without it. who tells him he will commit “murder” in offering the butcher the opportunity to confess. and no one can take on the responsibility of the other’s confession. In the context of the paper Lévinas is giving. and whatever need and desire one may have for that confession oneself. however good one may think this confession will be for the other person’s soul. as in the case of mass confessions and pardons. of inciting their confession. according to Lévinas. Rab goes to the butcher despite this dire warning. even by trying to incite it. Rab encounters one of his students. including his assertion of alterity in not confessing when Rab would have him do so. according to . Rab is thus going to the butcher to offer him the opportunity to confess and to encourage him to do so. In Lévinas’s talmudic reading.49 The point of this story. On his way to the butcher. we universalize confession and forgiveness despite the freedom and the resistance of some persons being confessed for and on the part of whom forgiveness is being offered. sure enough. Lévinas would write later in Otherwise than Being that we are “accused of what the others do or suffer.

it is evil. and due to their pragmatic and strategic functions. but who could not be confessed for. defending de Man’s silence.” strategic and calculated. complications. it has for instance been seen that Derrida expresses exasperation with the surplus of confessional discourses he is confronted with.” comparing the requirement of confessions in such cases to the extractions of admissions of guilt through torture in previous ages. If you only knew how fatigued I feel at these revelations and unveilings. In addition. therefore. .” “theatrical.” Derrida shows that confessions are structurally prone to deception due to their relation to pleasure in narcissistic self-exposure and masochistic shame. Finally. Derrida has also criticized the public response to the “de Man affair.”52 Heidegger whom Lévinas would have liked to hear confess. in contrast to Lévinas’s response to the silence of Heidegger. Like Foucault. religious and psychoanalytic contexts. Given this overall negative view of confession in Derrida’s thought. Derrida writes of state confessions as always “impure. how badly I put up with them [ . the theme of confession occurs in many contexts. . It is difficult to forgive Heidegger. ] explications. Reflecting Foucault’s insight that modern man has become a “confessing animal” and hence confesses rather a lot.”53 In a similarly negative vein. Derrida has for the most part approvingly examined de Man’s analyses of the structure and impossibility of confession in the latter’s studies of Rousseau. . whose silence needed to be accepted even if. how many I have had to put up with. For Lévinas. In “A silkworm of one’s own. and in the contexts in which he has been discussed so far he seems to view confession most often negatively. for too long [ . Lévinas writes: “One can forgive many Germans. ]. POLITICAL CONFESSIONS Returning to Derrida. In “History of the Lie. it has also been seen that Derrida demonstrates the structural proclivity of confessions towards lies in works such as “Typewriter Ribbon. true or not. Derrida has moreover repeatedly defended the decision to not confess on the part of his friend Paul de Man. and finally due to their obligatoriness in legal. but that we now produce them through the workings of internalized psychological mechanisms rather than through the mechanics of physical machines. we might have anticipated that Derrida would follow Lévinas in condemning . Derrida would be acknowledging that we continue to torture people for confessions today. such that they must be produced.” as cited previously. penal. but there are some Germans it is difficult to forgive. exhausted from knowing it. as Hegel deems the silence of the beautiful soul. one may not confess for him.182 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault his or her confession. he writes that he is “fatigued like truth. whatever the evil of the other’s silence.” considering political rather than private confessions. to be approached warily. explications of its revelations or unveilings. . producing the confessions that we think we need.

“I must make a second confession.”57 It has been seen that Derrida writes that these state confessions are always “impure. he has himself published several “confessional” works. calculated. Derrida states that one always confesses the other. In “Circumfession. be ethically responsible for the other’s confession and may provide it for the other if she does not speak. very confusedly. Derrida appears to have several positive accounts of confession and. in “History of the Lie. he also says that they.” “theatrical. As the title of this text suggests. outdoing even Augustine and Rousseau by being. Derrida warns us that we should distrust all confessions. or Chirac’s confession that France participated actively and willingly in National Socialist crimes against humanity. and so confessing for other people would seem all the more so. Confessing for oneself is problematic enough for Derrida. I will argue however that this is only the case in what are considered political confessions. such as Marayama’s confession to Japan’s colonial crimes.” Derrida discusses state confessions. Nevertheless.”58 Here. the fi rst philosopher to have discussed his own penis in print. believe me—by telling a few stories”54. as for instance those made for a community by the leader of a nation or a religious group. even as he denies that he is doing so: “I will now try to begin—and without lying. including his own. without waiting.Confessing the Other 183 all cases of confessing for other people.” Derrida calls his Memoirs of the Blind “the confessions of a blindman. for the living and the dead. and for crimes which the speaker may not in every case have been personally . despite Derrida’s apparently mixed feelings about the discursive genre of confessions.” as cited in the beginning of this chapter. and that such avowals should be categorized as testimonials rather than confessions. Which I must therefore ask you. and the fact that they exist today when they would never have occurred to anyone to make before. in fact.” and includes autobiographical material in the text. and to be distrusted. to believe”55. are “a ‘sign’ toward a perfectibility.” Derrida even seems to delight in presenting himself as a singularly confessional philosopher. as a grief expressed “at once personal and vaguely. toward the possibility of a progress of humanity. and more significantly. At the same time. “allow me to make two confessions. for persons experiencing contrition and for persons who feel none at all. although in fact Louis Althusser had already achieved this claim to fame in both L’avenir dure longtemps and Les faits. Derrida is approving of the avowal of an individual for an entire nation. in “Circumfession. against Lévinas’s talmudic reading. in “History of the Lie. that of the nation and the state.”56 Second. and thus the fact that he confesses himself does not indicate that he sees confessions as benign. then. Nevertheless. For instance. in the strongest of terms. You would have every right to distrust it. he claims.” strategic. for people who might agree with the truth claim and for people who might not. at at least four points seems to suggest that one may.” Derrida prefaces his “confessions” with disconcerting references to the possibility that he might be lying. First. as you would with any confession. In addition to having written “Circumfession.

” This essay deals with the novel entitled Le parjure. which title means both “the perjury” and “the perjurer. despite his defense of de Man’s decision to not confess. Derrida. after all. As such Derrida has petitioned politicians such as Mitterand and Chirac to make such confessions.’ also presents the excuses and confessions of the author. is present.” requiring more explications on Derrida’s part in place of de Man. Derrida tells us that one day in the 1970s de Man told Derrida to read Le parjure if he wanted to know a part of his life. Derrida states that de Man’s texts “can and should be read as also politico-autobiographical texts. This was perhaps done to confess for him. which once more relates to the “de Man affair.’ perhaps. Stéphane Chalier abandons a wife and two children when he emigrated from Belgium to the United States. or to make the confession known which de Man chose not to make. The perjury case against Chalier threatens the prominent intellectual and university professor with public disgrace. Finally.” Derrida considers another case of providing a confession for another person. In the novel. The book was written in 1964 by Henri Thomas. what Derrida has called the most “vulgar form of media violence. who was a friend of de Man. in “‘Le parjure. with others.” Thomas writes of the character representing de Man: “What was known about his years before America?” Thomas’s novel is narrated by a close friend of Stéphane Chalier. Derrida. immediately decided to publish all the material on the so-called “de Man affair” once he was aware of it. thus perjuring himself. the narrator.”60 De Man is thus defended for having not confessed. if I can put it that way. . worked on Hölderlin and emigrated to the United States from Belgium. like other persons close to de Man. more adamantly.184 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault involved in. but then is found to have confessed. de Man himself. He writes. then.” Here. Somewhat uncannily. is one case of confessing for others—very different perhaps from those occurring in the contexts discussed so far—of which Derrida approves. and expresses disapprobation for politicians such as Mitterand and Clinton who declined to confess to the injustices committed by their nations. and was inspired by de Man having been accused of perjury in the 1950s. . on some subject or another. and to provide interpretations which extract the desired contrition which was never explicitly expressed. Third. his friend. Here. Moreover. also seems to seek confession in de Man’s writings. like de Man. since Thomas was writing in the early 1960s and did not know about what would one day become known as the “de Man affair. This publication of course led to a public outcry. obliquely. or to make explicit the confession which Derrida thinks is tacit in de Man’s academic texts but for which we would not otherwise have known to look. When Stéphane receives a letter telling him that he is being investigated for bigamy and perjury. and later would marry another woman in the United States without having divorced the first wife in Belgium.”59 Later. Witnessing his friend’s . ] ‘Excuses (Confessions). “Now it is not unthinkable that [ . or is desired to be found confessing. It tells the story of a professor of literature named Stéphane Chalier who.

is initially surprise and refusal. and witness. . Stéphane understands that confession is impossible. and for having thereby provoked the demand for a confession on the part of the committee [ . a change of subject. Stéphane asks his friend to write the confession for him. . Is this not to veil from myself at the moment what I know only too well. It does not arise from having committed bigamy himself. as acolyte. in introspection. . he comes around to the idea and begins drafting ideas for the other man’s confession in his mind. . “is constantly tormented by a disturbance of identification. which leads the committee to request a written confession from Stéphane. and moreover being deemed responsible for it. and also realizes that it is impossible for him to write the confession himself. .’”61 Derrida considers the narrator guilt.Confessing the Other 185 situation. of having been a witness for the defense. the narrator tries to intervene with the committee investigating his case. He states that he is not the other man. who writes: How can we in conversation. he comes to feel guilty and. a witness for him. but perhaps from “having wanted to defend [his friend]. For Stéphane. we find that Stéphane quickly forgets the idea of having his friend write the confession for him. . one is always confessing for something . he is not the one who has perjured himself. and as the one who has interfered. that I thus judge a past to which by defi nition my present is not subject?64 As both Sartre and Derrida note. thinking that as friend. of having intervened in his favor. however. At the same time. follower. This is perjury because one is never the one who did the things to which one confesses. Stéphane’s objection to confession is thus similar to Sartre’s. Like de Man. But what does this mean if not that I am constituting myself as a thing?. The narrator’s response to being asked to write a confession for another person. perhaps he is responsible for speaking for the other man after all. Confronted by this demand for a confession which his friend’s interference has provoked. companion. . suggesting that his friend is responsible for writing the confession since it was his interference which provoked the demand for it. one is never identical with the person who did the acts in the past. and Derrida tells us we “are free to make all the transpositions possible between the protagonists of the “Chalier affair” and those of the “de Man” affair. ]”62 The parallels with Derrida’s intervention in the de Man affair are apparent. even attempt to be sincere since the attempt will by its very nature be doomed to failure and since at the very time when we announce it we have a prejudicative comprehension of its futility?. in confession. as Derrida writes. He wonders at what moment and even whether he will ever have had the right to say ‘us.” in which Derrida himself was a protagonist. all confessions regarding things which happened in the past are dépassé.63 Returning to the novel. confession is perjury and anacoluthon. . Slowly. confession is impossible because whether confessing for another person or for oneself. a syntactic shift.

and because I can offer an explanation to the extent that my situation is not altogether . but he does go on to narrate the story we read in Le parjure. but only in the way that all confession is impossible. Remembering and confession are both impossible responsibilities. with others. can no longer write his own confession. One wonders if this is not the sort of impossibility which is the aporetic grounds of possibility for Derrida.’ perhaps. of course. as Derrida suggests earlier in “‘Le parjure. as if both had been accused. but is rather the perjury involved in writing the novel itself. At the end of Le parjure the narrator says.186 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault someone else did. confessing and excusing him. in such a case. So. the perjury of the friend. the peculiar question arises once more in Derrida’s writing: can one confess for the other person? Thomas and Derrida seem to suggest that this is impossible. defending his innocence as well as putting forth the evidence of his guilt. a betrayal of the past. Derrida writes of a commonality between himself and de Man. Stéphane. just as in the novel. and who then disappears. Faced with this dual impossibility. decided to make public the information about his friend’s wartime journalism. like de Man disappeared without giving his confession. “if I don’t leave things there. the one who confesses. thus provoking the outcry for a confession-report. even if it is one’s own past self. Derrida intervenes repeatedly in telling stories about the life of de Man. guilty. as if they were an “us. if the story of the “Chalier affair” is very similar to that of the “de Man affair. and so he does not leave things alone either. like the narrator. and like Henri Thomas. in telling de Man’s story would also feel guilty of perjury. as Derrida does when he writes in “Typewriter Ribbon” of “our common innocence” and of “the best intentioned of all our machinations. an impossible task. Derrida.”66 Here.” accused together.” all forgetting is also perjury. of speaking for the other person. Similarly. the perjurer and his acolyte. telling his story for him when he could not tell it himself. anacoluthonic. is in bad faith. in turn. just as the narrator never doubts that his friend is. of one’s duty to remember everything at every moment. It is Derrida who.65 At the same time. publishing his documents and bearing witness for him. In Sartre’s terms. The narrator in Le parjure does not in the end write the confession-report. of the narrator’s confessing for another man.” the story of the narrator’s interference in Stéphane Chalier’s case is very similar to Derrida’s interference for de Man. a confession which de Man himself could no longer give. For Sartre. of disavowing him even while intervening for him. Derrida even asks whether the perjury to which the book’s title refers is not the perjury of Stéphane’s second marriage. like the “champion of sincerity” who demands the confession from another. As noted. of speaking of an “us” in defending his friend. who is going blind.” a “we. merely someone close to him. the acolyte who perjures himself in speaking for his friend. therefore. the one who denies and seeks to forget his past is as much in bad faith as the one who confesses to the past as what he is. instead of confessing Stéphane simply disappears. that’s because I am not Chalier. perjurous.

however. referring to Kierkegaard’s claims that one cannot repent for another. this anacoluthonic perjury is a shift from “he” to “us. In “History of the Lie. the writing of Le parjure itself.” He must speak for the other. ]. and yet this impossibility grounds the responsibility to write the impossible confession. “How right Chalier was when he said that it was my responsibility to write the [confession-] report! He was more right than he thought [ . and .”67 He then exclaims.” if it is impossible in an impossibility which grounds possibility or if it is impossible tout court.” and yet. In political confessions.”68 The “us” Derrida speaks of when he says that he and de Man are commonly innocent and when the narrator of Le parjure says that “Now I can say ‘us’” depends on the narrator’s realization that he is not Stéphane. and Lévinas with respect to all confessions made for other people. as would worry both Derrida with respect to Hegel. Although Derrida’s claims about confession appear inconsistent or at least undecidable. as Derrida makes clear. a selfconsciously perjurous substitution. the leader is not speaking of a private or personal truth of the inner self.Confessing the Other 187 his—it will thus be only an approximate explanation. the case of “confession” which Derrida clearly advocates. that knowing the other is not knowing the self. is not confession in Foucault’s sense.” Anacoluthon is not a synthesis of pronouns. There indeed seems to be no clear answer to the question of whether confession for the other can take place in Le parjure or in “‘Le parjure. which is grounded in and made possible by the realization of not being him. his own or that of another. it will only ever be an approximate explanation and not his own. On the other hand. I would argue that Derrida is consistently suspicious of personal revelations or private confessions including his own. is not here a subsumption of the other into the same. but is an interruption of syntax. If this seems to be the conclusion Derrida reaches. . I am not the other for whom I am responsible.’ perhaps. and yet it is also his responsibility to not “just leave things here. that I am not the other whom I follow.” So the confession is not written because it is impossible. . and though I am perhaps responsible for his confession. therefore. of speaking for the other. conditional sentences and hesitations. it has been seen that Derrida had nevertheless been more assertive in his affi rmation of the possibility of confessing for others. and speak of an “us. que je ne suis pas l’autre que je suis. he is concerned with the same sorts of confessions which Foucault problematizes: discursive acts which attempt to reveal the truth of an individual’s inner self. he nevertheless ends his essay on Le parjure with further complications.” a taking of responsibility for the other. of there being no Hegelian “us. Likewise it is impossible for Derrida to confess for his friend. In these cases. this is not the Hegelian “us”—he writes: “This us will never be the us reached by a phenomenology of mind in the figure of a knowing-itself of absolute knowledge.” discussing the case of state confessions. that of political or state confessions. Rather. The anacoluthonic moment of perjury. that Derrida is not de Man.

subjects bore witness not to innate or psychological truths of their selves or of their racial or national identity. Such political “confessions. spoke of what had been but which would no longer be. As such. but rather. again. The confession which is demanded by the public has to do with de Man’s individual life. On the contrary. nor of their victimizers or those that they had victimized. character. prejudicial. he is telling the truth about historical events. particularly for Derrida who was his friend. it has been seen that Derrida is far more ambivalent than he is in either his negative view of personal confessions or in his positive view of testimony or state “confessions. the truth which is admitted to is not personal or introspective. Chirac. as Foucault defi nes it. Such speech should function as a process not of self-reification and discovery but of self. Mitterand refused to “confess” for France because at this time it was still just barely possible to deny the role of the French in collaborating with the National Socialists. Testimony is to be distinguished from confession. Importantly. on the other hand. need not have.” if we can call them confessions at all. and demands an explanation which inevitably proceeds through an analysis of his intentions. and is not essential to the self or to the group in whose name the leader is speaking. falls into a nebulous space between the private and political. an essential truth. In the testimony given to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.and social-transformation.” and this may be because de Man’s case. In these cases of testimony. because confession for Foucault is about revealing the truth of one’s inner self. whereas testimony tells the truth about the past in the hopes that in the process this past will be surmounted and will not be reproduced. moreover.69 In the case of Derrida’s speaking for de Man. are in fact closer to testimonial than confession as Foucault describes it. in an atmosphere of change. Confession exposes a supposedly hidden truth of the self. a transformation is aimed at. is not secret or hidden.188 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault he is not avowing something which is hidden and essential to any individual or to the nation or group as a whole. “confessed” because denial was no longer feasible and was. what is being admitted is not avowed as a revelation of national character. feelings. as Derrida notes. in ways which are self-conscious that this need not have been and need not be in the future. Rather. rehumanizing their oppressors and rehumanizing themselves. testimonials should bear witness to what has been or is. these “confessions” are strategic in that the facts of the events in question are already known or becoming known. familial relations (that he was . speak of healing. whereas for Foucault confession aims not to change the self but to reveal it. for instance. healing. and in most cases. childhood. and that it is not specific or inherent to the testifying individual or to her group. but as something which happened but which should not have. Testimony should not aim to reveal a hidden and essential truth of an inner self or of a given group. whereas testimony is about changing the self and changing society: the individuals testifying to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa. and which must not happen again. and hope.

there is a sense in which all confessions are political for both Derrida and for Foucault. in the case where we exchange our forgiveness for her confession. with Derrida. but mean to refer to confessions which do not introspect on an individual.”70 In silence there is no economy of exchange and thus it is in the . this would be a personal. contra Lévinas.” Derrida suggests that we must “make silence the very element of forgiveness. introspective confession (and. as de Man would point out. like those of the acting consciousness. legal.Confessing the Other 189 orphaned. and had Derrida decided to not expose the secret once he learned of it. a nation or a group. as for instance in the confessions that were demanded of Bill Clinton—that he had smoked marijuana. grounding responsibility for the other instead in an “us” which recognizes that I am not the other and that confession for her is thus always an impossible responsibility. and as such I am also not referring to those increasingly common confessions made by politicians dealing with their own private lives. or of testimonials. which. Consequently. and that these are in fact testimonials rather than confessions. By speaking of “political confessions” here. and political pressure—or the confessions given voluntarily by the Born Again George W. confessions can be demanded from others and made for others. Bush. Derrida will deny that we need the other person’s confession in order to forgive. On the other hand. If. Derrida will simply reject the need for Hegelian recognition and for the “us” of synthesis. because given voluntarily. forgiving us and receiving our forgiveness through his politically strategic self-exposure. since. declined to make but eventually had publicly and abjectly extracted through social. To be clear. one that becomes an excuse) to the essential and secret self of Paul de Man. . what do we say about the two apparently ethical grounds for demanding the other’s confession which we have seen? In the fi rst case. In “To Forgive. and insist on her confession as payment for the forgiveness that we give. The “political confessions” to which I refer are thus not introspective confessions. I do not mean to imply that private confessions are apolitical. and on these grounds Derrida rejects it. and hence Derrida felt the need to make that story known. and thus it is also political. this would also have been a political decision. that he had had intercourse with Monica Lewinski—confessions which he. In the second case. the personal is political. however. ]. we are not forgiving at all. as feminists have often put it. we conclude by arguing that only in the case of state or non-introspective “confessions” can we demand and make avowals of and for others. gained him popularity. . but which concern the history of an individual. and so forth). admitting that he shared in our universal and flawed humanity. that he saw his collaboratist uncle as a father figure. showing that he was “human” like the rest of us. the confession in question deals with a figure of some authority who collaborated with National Socialists. like the judging consciousness. if there is such a thing [ . and in fact. Derrida would be arguing that in the case of political confessions alone. As such.

Following Derrida. as attested to by our appetite for what Miller calls the “memoir biz. or more generally through the media. Following a reading of the diverse discussions of confession in the writings of Derrida. whether very specifically. Beginning with a discussion of confessional authors such as Augustine. abolishing her alterity for the subject’s peace of mind. this chapter has moreover argued that although confessions asked from others are often charged with ethical value—recognition. it is thus in the silence of the other’s failure to confess. and Ernaux. if forgiveness can exist at all. CONFESSING FOR OTHERS This chapter has argued against the tendency to elicit the confessions of others and to confess for others. love. Lévinas. Rousseau. and of confessional readers such as Miller. and Derrida. Ethically speaking. it has been argued that political avowals to the historical guilt of individuals and nations. Following Sartre. I would argue that we do not need recognition in the form of a universal “us” which counter-confessions strive to provide. Dostoyevsky. are desirable and even necessary. community. we desire the confessions of others as well. and in our refraining from confessing for her.190 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault silence which makes forgiveness impossible that forgiveness may actually take place. whether in the immediate context of the reception of our own confessions. As confessional subjects.g. it has explored the desire of confessing subjects to hear confessional responses from the other.” In particular. but that they are to be placed in a separate category from personal confessions and are better understood as testimonials. . as when confessions to any flaws or singularities bring us pleasure because we ourselves are flawed and singular. when “confessed” homosexuals insist that others confess to the exact same thing. we look for confessions which recognize our own. as opposed to confessions to a politician’s private life and to the micro-politics of personal confessions more generally. that forgiveness may occur. forgiveness—they are in fact unethical to the other. and that forgiveness which requires reciprocation is not forgiveness. or more generally. e.

Foucault sought to develop a theory of the manners in which individuals are not only governed and disciplined into subjects. these chapters have intended not only to show what is problematic about confession as a disciplinary practice of the self and as an ethical relation with the other. this fi nal chapter will examine alternatives to confession. “An Ethics of Pleasure”1 It was argued in Chapter One that the purpose of genealogy is to show the contingency of one historical mode of subjectification in order to indicate the possibility of alternative forms as they have existed in the past and may exist in the future. As he writes in the introduction to The Use of Pleasure: .5 Alternatives to Confession The transformation of one’s self by one’s own knowledge is. Chapters One through Two have hoped to function as a genealogy of confession. something rather close to the aesthetic experience. Genealogy undermines totalizing histories so that alternatives to those histories may be thought. More precisely. Following this genealogy and problematization of confession. As such. In the last two volumes of The History of Sexuality. by indicating that the confessional form of subjectification which characterizes the modern West is both contingent and negative. and in his seminar lectures and other shorter writings from this period. but. I think. strategies for transforming the self which contrast with the self-fi xing or disciplinary practices of confession. but in which they govern and discipline themselves. The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self. to suggest both the possibility and the need for alternative forms of subject formation. or to show the accidents which gave rise to confessional subjectivity. while Chapters One through Four have each aimed to examine some of the detriments of confessional subjectivity for both the self and the other. fashioning themselves within the confi nes of their historical field. he explores ancient aesthetics of the self as possible resources for discovering models of self-constitution to contrast with the subjectification that occurs under disciplinary power. Why should a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting? —Michel Foucault.

but instead work on changing what we are. but that which enables one to get free of oneself. The point is not that we should take up these particular alternatives. technologies of domination will be entangled with forms of self-care. First. The suggestion was that although the sciences of sex purport to give us the truth about our sex. therefore. but only that the very existence of an alternative demonstrates that our own ways of being and knowing are not inevitable.”3 For Foucault. I would hope that in the eyes of some people it might be sufficient in itself. and inspiration. or during the Middle Ages. tools. that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know. After all. in the knower’s straying afield of himself?2 As Todd May notes. then there exist contemporary forms of self-care which can be cultivated. Not to become Greek. as the Western human sciences have long aimed to do. not simply try to discover who we are. in one way or another and to the extent possible. Nonetheless. to open up the possibility that one might become someone else. “To become someone else: that is the ultimate goal of the ethical writings. the study of what other people have been in other eras and other places allows us to recognize the contingency of what we are. even in our contemporary disciplinary society. How do we do this? The Ancient Greeks and Romans. through creating a distance between whoever one has been taught that one is and who one could have been. or Roman. and it is not only in the past that we can fi nd strategies. We might. the balance shifted toward discipline with Christianity. While in the Renaissance there was a resurgence of technologies of the self. that the possibility exists of becoming other than what we are. This idea was already seen in the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality when Foucault compared theWestern sciences of sex to erotic arts in the East. For Foucault. This chapter will be concerned with non-confessional practices which I will interpret as technologies of the self and as alternatives to confession. as was seen in the case of psychoanalysis. we are once more in an era in which subject-formation is primarily disciplinary. It was curiosity—the only kind of curiosity. other ways of knowing about sex or of experiencing bodies and pleasures have existed. Foucault would also say that technologies of self-governance are always intertwined with technologies of discipline. or the refusal to engage in . provide some examples not only of other ways of being. I will consider autobiographical silence. if selfcare and dominance are always intertwined. although technologies of discipline and self-care co-exist. what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not.192 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault As for what motivated me. it is quite simple. and thus to be able to conceive of becoming other than what we are. but. in any case. but of ways of changing the being that one is. As such. or Christian. with their technologies of the self.

self-care and autonomy occur within a political and group movement.Alternatives to Confession 193 autobiographical discourses at all. and in the examples of feminist technologies of the self. suggesting that there is a history of women’s practices of self-care. Finally. and feminist political practice in particular. arguing that Foucault’s discussion of the two nineteenth-century memoirs are useful for theorizing ways of reflecting on one’s experiences without confessing to or reifying them. To cite again. 5 Second. although he had admitted to his crime. many of the historical and contemporary examples which I have chosen to explore describe technologies developed and practiced by women. The examples of self-care that I will consider in this chapter differ from those of Foucault in at least two ways. I will examine Foucault’s studies of autobiographical writing. Foucault describes the courtroom scene beginning with the judge’s question: “Have you tried to reflect upon your case?” -Silence. for Foucault. In the case studies which I present. SILENCE AS PRACTICE OF FREEDOM It was seen in Chapter Two that. . the subject cares for herself in ways which reverse the workings of discipline and cultivate autonomy while continuing to fashion herself in relation to others. as a practice of freedom. I will next look at Foucault’s publication of the nineteenth-century memoirs of Pierre Rivière and Herculine Barbin. and painting in particular. beginning with his discussion of the self-writing practices of the ancient Greeks and early Christians. while Foucault readily accepts that women did not practice technologies of the self in antiquity. autonomy as independence from others is not posited as an aesthetic ideal. I will then take up Foucault’s claim that artistic practice. fictional. in Renaissance Self-Fashioning. and artistic interpretations of Artemisia’s life and work will serve as examples of contemporary technologies of the self. the writing and reading of which were and are practices which transform the self. as other non-confessional and self-transformative practices. in the technologies of self-governance which I will consider. also only considers the self-fashioning practices of men). In the subsequent section I will consider political action. through a discussion of what have been understood as the post-trauma paintings of the seventeenth-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Second. I will suggest that Foucault’s own writings can be understood as examples of such non-confessional discourses. First. while a consideration of recent feminist art historical. and thus sets aside the question of women’s self-care4 (much as Stephen Greenblatt. can be a practice of self-transformation. silence can be a means to resist discipline. Foucault discusses the case of the criminal who declined to confess to his motivations. unlike those discussed by Foucault and derived from the ancient Greeks and Romans.

” -Silence.6 In cases such as these. under less coercive circumstances. and Native North American societies.7 Such a friendship is surely unusual. however. at twenty-two years of age. and before making these remarks.” Foucault goes on to say that he is “in favor of developing silence as a cultural ethos. as a positive way in which to experience the self in relations with others. emotional admiration. So we stayed together from about three o’clock in the afternoon to midnight.” and that “Silence may be a much more interesting way of having a relationship with people” than the confessional exchanges which we currently engage in. which occurred under less coercive conditions than that described above. as when he speaks of a friendship which developed between himself and the fi lmmaker Daniel Schmidt: [W]e discovered after a few minutes that we really had nothing to say to each other. “Would you do it again?” -Silence. we had dinner.10 The silence which Foucault . You are the one who has the keys to your own actions. Greek.194 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault “Why. even for Foucault. do such violent urges overtake you? You must make an effort to analyze yourself. silence is presented as a practice of freedom despite conditions of constraint. we smoked hash.9 Silence is thus presented by Foucault as an alternative to confession. as a means to resist the disciplinary incitements to confessional discourse under conditions of coercion. And I don’t think we spoke more than twenty minutes during those ten hours. “We don’t have a culture of silence. he remarks. Foucault also observed other positive forms of silence. There were some kinds of silence which implied very sharp hostility and others which meant deep friendship. culminating with an emotional outburst from the jury. Explain yourself. It was for me the fi rst time that a friendship originated in strictly silent behavior. and. At fi rst glance. Roman. This interpretation would seem to be lent credence by the well-known silence that Foucault himself kept. From that moment a rather long friendship started. In the same interview in which he advocates a cultural ethos of silence.” 8 Unlike Japanese. it would thus seem that a Foucaultian philosophy would recommend silence as the solution to the problems which have been explored thus far. Foucault notes that he had realized as a child that “there were many different ways of speaking as well as many forms of silence. who notes that our society is remarkable in that silence has “unfortunately been dropped from our culture. or of resisting disciplinary incitements to speech. even love.” and that one of his reasons for admiring silence is that he had been obliged to speak as a child. We drank. and particularly in which his life ended.

those people. and that it is time for others to keep quiet so that at last the sound of their disapproval may be heard. . Foucault says: [T]hose who. For this reason.” to speak. a new way of doing.” to use Peter Brooks’s term. as confessions. and that their uses of autobiographical discourses in particular have been a source of empowerment. on persons imprisoned by lettres .13 Foucault has also published a little-known book. while those who have dominated may now be quiet. whereas there are other forms of silence which function otherwise.” “almost pious. have found a new tone. consciousness-raising. autonomy. In 1961 Michel Serres described Foucault’s Madness and Civilization as “a cry” through which “circulates” a “profound love. as would be such a reading of the silence around Foucault’s own death. as shall be seen below. In an interview. and around which he would develop a cultural ethos. To simply say that silence is preferable to speech for Foucault. even with respect to autobiographical matters. therapeutic healing. It is clear that some silences are just as “troubling. That silence can be the effect of domination and oppression is a point not lost on Foucault.Alternatives to Confession 195 admires.”12 Foucault is thus invested in allowing those who have historically been silenced to “find a new tone. and bringing about social awareness and change. who has often written of and listened to those who were marginalized by social discourses without having a privileged access to them. and particular autobiographical forms of writing and speaking deemed to be political tools by historically marginalized groups. would hence be an over-simplification. liberation.11 while I have argued above that we need to distinguish between confession and practices such as testimonials. To raise at once the most obvious trouble with an advocation of silence: many groups of historically marginalized and oppressed people consider that they have gained access to speech for the fi rst time.” “pour l’autre soi-même”—“voici le livre de toutes les solitudes. and love. will never feel the need to lament that the world is error. therefore. It is thus necessary to explore the extent to which a Foucaultian critique of confession extends to discourses surrounding identity politics and practices of bearing witness to oppression. several Foucaultian feminists have been quick to argue that Foucault’s analysis of confession does not apply to all instances of autobiographical discourses such as feminist consciousness-raising. Désordre des familles. . for once in their lives. I believe. that history is filled with people of no consequence. the book of all the solitudes of the other. is one which demonstrates a freedom from coercions to speech—for instance those explored in the previous chapters—such that silence can express friendship. . a new way of looking. as Foucault makes clear both in this interview and in other writings.” Serres writes. Foucaultian critiques of confessional discourses could be misused as a form of reactionary re-silencing of the already oft-silenced in our society.

and thus confession may be sought as a sanction to kill. if the story which came to be totalizing had not dominated. and which might have continued to speak. forms of speech. and also to challenge the present such that new voices can be raised.196 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault de cachet under the Ancien Régime. We therefore need not simply to speak more. silenced in dungeons at their families’ requests. to be “helped” by the criminal psychiatrists. then. as seen. to be discussed below. Silence is not. in later works he is also suspicious of claims about silence resulting from repression. but may be a result of domination and constraining of the speaking subject rather than liberating. Part of Foucault’s genealogical task is to unearth the voices which once spoke in the past. and particularly from sexual repression. when in truth that speech will result in his material and psychological constraint: in the second case of a criminal who refused to confess to his motivations discussed in Chapter Two. Moreover. Speech is not always a form of liberation from the oppressions of silence. and the marginalized of society may in fact be forced to speak confessionally. we need to choose to speak or to remain silent in ways which cultivate autonomy and subvert the workings of discipline. much as. In a different vein. the suspected criminal will be urged to confess for the sake of his psychological liberation. and different kinds of silence. for Foucault the greater problem is perhaps the ways in which we speak and make others speak. is a problem. Foucault’s interest in Discipline and Punish and in his first volume of The History of Sexuality lies less with the silence of these marginalized and constrained persons in the modern period than with the manners in which they were made to speak. Foucault interviewed and published the words of contemporary prisoners whose experiences and discontents would not otherwise have been heard. or may speak confessionally out of either an apparently innate or a political desire which is in fact but an internalized affect of their oppression. Rather. or to speak about and make others speak about what we think is repressed. Foucault points out that the confession was desired because the court could not order the execution of a man whom it had not understood. a study of which Discipline and Punish would be part. as well as lost voices from the past such as those of Pierre Rivière and Herculine Barbin. always the fate of the oppressed. Although this is not to deny that silence or. whether of the criminal or the mad or of those who lost in the power struggles of history. As such silence is not necessarily the mark of oppression. silencing. quite literally. he writes: “the agency of domination does not reside in . but which were not heard. The silence to which Foucault tries to give voice in writings and political practices is thus one which results from domination and enclosure. but the dominated subject was not left in her quietude. but was made to produce other forms of discourse. and incitements to discourse need to be differentiated between. Certain ways of speaking were indeed silenced. Foucault’s work on sexuality also shows an awareness of silence not as an effect of domination but as a strategy of oppression and power. while writing on the prison in the modern period. to cite again. more particularly. and yet. Significantly.

as already seen. Foucault perceives that silence can also be a position and strategy of power. rather than embracing all speech as liberating and condemning all silence as harm. but also a hindrance. rather than opposing silence and speech. a stumblingblock. some of which. is a consequence of domination. In like manner. We must make allowance for the complex and unstable process whereby discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power. and that discourse can be just as much a strategy of resistance to power as silence and secrecy can be. BOOKS OF LIFE Foucault’s essay “Self-writing. In short. but others of which shelter it.” which was briefly discussed in Chapter One. and silence as similar acts within the same process. secrecy. but in the one who listens and says nothing. as well as many forms of speech. is characteristic of his final work on subjectivity in that. but they also loosen its holds and provide for relatively obscure areas of tolerance. In turn. any more than silences are. silence is complex: silence can be a position which reflects one’s oppression or which demonstrates one’s freedom. silence and secrecy are a shelter for power.”14 Although silence has been treated in recent scholarship purely negatively. whether this inability comes from an external or an internal compulsion to speak. Discourse transmits and produces power. which is the freedom that he strives to theorize. not being able to remain silent.Alternatives to Confession 197 the one who speaks (for it is he who is constrained). we need to distinguish between forms of silence and speech. as a symptom of oppression to be overcome through liberating access to language. Indeed. there are many forms of silence. and some of which do both. or it can be a means of oppressing the other. but also undermines and exposes it. resist power. renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it. while speech can manifest a deprivation of freedom as well as an assertion of it. without offering any explicit evaluations. Foucault writes of discourse. anchoring its prohibitions.15 As this discussion makes clear. he describes forms of self-writing in the practices of the ancients which can be viewed as alternative practices of subject-making . Foucault notes that silence and secrets as strategies are no freer of relations of domination and power than is verbalization. each being simultaneously possible effects of power and forms of resistance. it reinforces it. as has been the tendency in recent decades. contrary to most contemporary discussions of the topic. He writes: Discourses are not once and for all subservient to power or raised up against it. a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy. and that this manipulation of power relations can both be a way of constraining the other and a means of releasing the self from the other’s constraints. Consequently.

These books were ways of remembering bits of wisdom. impressions of actions one has witnessed or read about. because in our own era discipline precedes us and comes from outside. Foucault describes three kinds of writing which. both of these practices can be contrasted to the panopticism described in Discipline and Punish in similar ways: while both practices of self-writing involve a form of surveillance. the most interesting of the three types of self-governing writing is the hupomnêmata. The subject’s decision precedes surveillance. This is quite different from the manners in which surveillance and discipline are internalized in the modern period. if obliged to write down all of one’s deeds and thoughts occurring in private. and exercise. control of diet. reflections of one’s own or which one has heard. without having chosen to be. appear among the various ancient “arts of the self. and would not say sinful thoughts aloud for others to hear. In this article. which one could later meditate upon. and then we internalize this surveillance. Though buried between his accounts of the ascetic’s diary and correspondence. in both cases the subject chooses to submit his life. and writing can thus function as a witness. reading. one will protect oneself from sin. as told in his writing. particularly in terms of the replacement of a virtual other with an actual reader.198 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault which we may contrast with those of the early modern and modern confessional practices described in the first volume of The History of Sexuality. and thus to internalize that surveillance. imagined or real. but the first that Foucault discusses. we fi rst fi nd ourselves monitored. the only difference being that they are now given up to another’s gaze. and which one could also share with others: Foucault . not from a decision of one’s own. which is to be internalized through habituation into self-surveillance. along with meditation. Foucault goes on to contrast this early Christian practice of self. fragments of works one has read.”16 The latest to emerge historically. Nevertheless. as Foucault describes in Discipline and Punish. to the surveillance of another. and the subject also chooses what to write. On the contrary. A person is less likely to commit sinful acts or pursue sinful thoughts if she must record them. replacing the surveillance of another in moments of solitude when one cannot depend on others to produce the requisite sense of self-consciousness and shame. or what to submit to the surveillance of the other.writing with two pre-Christian uses of writing as self-governance. Today it is no longer a desire to monitor oneself and thus to care for the self which gives rise to a voluntary submission to the surveillance of another. or as a self-conscious practice of self-care. listening to others. the hupomnêmata and correspondence. The idea is that just as one would not commit sinful acts in the presence of others. Foucault distinguishes this form of self-writing from the books just described. The correspondence which interests Foucault is the practice of daily exchanges of letters between ancients in which all of one’s activities and thoughts are once more recorded. is the practice of keeping a written record of one’s actions and thoughts of that day. He chooses to do so out of a concern for himself. The hupomnêmata is a “livre de vie” in which one collects citations.

Foucault stresses. unification. that a self is formed through acts of rational will.” and will consider his own books and that of the Foucaultian philosopher Ladelle McWhorter as other contemporary examples of hupomnêmata. “des journaux intimes. and the life one wanted to live. as exercises for the soul. Such books. BAROQUE SELF-FASHIONINGS: RE-PRESENTING THE SELF IN ART/HISTORY In an interview cited at the beginning of this chapter. but are encouraged to note their own dietary intake and observations) as combining the functions of discipline and of the hupomnêmata. One does not seek to reveal in these books a selfhood which pre-exists them but remains “hidden”—as in confession and contemporary confessional autobiographies—but rather. which contained Plutarch’s collection of reflections and citations on the subject of the tranquil spirit.Alternatives to Confession 199 describes a case in which Fundanus asks Plutarch for advice on “agitations of the soul. These are not. and subjectification of an already-said which is fragmentary and chosen. simply sends Fundanus his hupomnêmata to reflect on. and .” and Plutarch.19 After having considered early modern and nineteenth-century practices of the self in the following sections.” and nor are they places to record one’s personal experiences and spiritual struggles à la Saint Augustine. but collects fragments of observations by others or of one’s own of the external world. The de Manian and Foucaultian point that writing constitutes life rather than being constituted by it is taken up. As Foucault writes. other philosophers have argued that certain books which contemporary subjects read and write also function as hupomnêmata: Marianne Valverde describes The Prophet and Chicken Soup for the Soul as modern hupomnêmata. Foucault extends a discussion of philosophical work to include other creative practices. ways of working on one’s life. but does not now result in a flight into silence. It is possible for the author of “Self Writing. of cultivating the sort of subjecthood one desired to have. actively and self-consciously constitutes one’s self as in process. reflected and meditated upon repeatedly.” therefore. were meant to be read and reread. One does not describe one’s self or one’s experiences here. one’s own and those of others. examples which successfully shift the balance of power away from discipline and towards self-care. but in an active appropriation of that writing as self-aware and self-constitutive practice. the hupomnêmata “have to do with constituting oneself as a subject of rational action through appropriation. in the final part of this chapter I will return to Foucault’s notion of “books of life.”17 While Foucault looked to antiquity to find examples of these books of life.18 while Cressida Heyes describes the leaflets handed out at Weight Watchers meetings (in which dieters find not only advice on dieting and success stories from other dieters. not having time to respond by writing an original treatise on the subject. through meditated selection of citations and reflection on them.

and these are your promises!”26 . reveal. The stories of the Sabine women and of the Amazons. self-portraits. or fi ngerscrews. and affirm who they are. or as an alternative to confession. Artemisia continued to sleep with her rapist for several months in the hopes that he would keep his promise to marry her. which threat he carried out. denying having slept with Artemisia—although he had already told multiple witnesses that he had—while accusing not only Artemisia. not to change who they are but to explore. were frequently depicted in medieval and early modern art. he had “dishonored” her in a way which only marriage could amend. 23 Artemisia ascribes Agostino’s withdrawal of his pledge to marry her to Cosimo’s lies. who were raped and later married to their abductors and rapists. Agostino even accused Artemisia of having had sexual relations with her father. now that. On one occasion. and. risking her artists’ hands. by exploring the example of the Baroque Caravaggista Artemisia Gentileschi. and who was examined by midwives. Following the rape by Agostino. 24 Agostino was a sordid character and a multiple sexual offender: previously imprisoned for incest. in the paradigmatic case. I would like to examine Foucault’s observation that painting can at least in some cases function as a self-conscious transformation of the artist. or as confessions in the Foucaultian sense. According to the trial records. As emerges in the records of the rape trial. she said to him: “This is the ring that you give me. commemorating this deeply engrained pattern of sexual relationship. when he asks: “Why should a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting?”20 It could be argued against Foucault that at least some artists create paintings. Guido Ruggiero’s studies of rape in Renaissance Italy document that it was an entirely standard pattern of behavior. when she successfully rebuffed him. the Roman artist Artemisia began her career in scandal. but her mother and aunt of being “insatiable whores. As is well known. Cosimo told Artemisia that he would spread rumors that he had had her.22 Consensual sexual relationships frequently followed rape and culminated in marriage in this period. During the trial. Agostino’s friend Cosimo Quorli also attempted to rape Artemisia both before and after her rape by Agostino. and rumored to have murdered his wife.”25 although he could not have known either of the latter women. Derrida has argued that every self-portrait in the Christian tradition is a confession. 21 In this section. was charged by Artemisia’s father with having raped his daughter. it was Artemisia and not Agostino who was tortured with the sibille. while the ropes were tightened around Artemisia’s fi ngers in Agostino’s presence. an artist who was hired to teach Artemisia perspective drawing.200 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault art-making in particular. Taking up this view. in her own words. Although this may seem strange to the modern reader. however. although the judges admonished Agostino for bearing false witness and were openly skeptical of his testimony. Agostino Tassi. he told contradictory and impossible tales in his trial testimony. due to the fact that marrying their rapists was the only means raped women saw to rectify their situation and to avoid a worse fate.

The viewer is implicitly male and is meant to identify not with Susanna’s plight but with the visual pleasures of the Elders: one art historian describes Rubens’s version. Despite this marriage. as was conventional for the time. in which rape was almost never brought to trial and usually came to nothing when it did. which she would eventually abandon.”31 [Figure 4]. multiple episodes from Susanna’s story would normally be depicted. while it was Artemisia’s reputation which was so damaged that a hasty marriage had to be arranged for her in Florence to remove her from the site of her disgrace. Susanna is shown gazing coquettishly at the Elders. Artemisia was forever masculinized in the public’s mind and was consistently presumed to be promiscuous. While in early Christian and medieval paintings of this Old Testament tale. while positioned to display her body to its full advantage for the viewer. for instance. diverging from the Old Testament version of events. including one month after the end of the trial. while expressing skepticism about whether she was actually raped. a version of Susanna and the Elders dated 1610. guilt for this particular crime was rarely punished. such that even twentiethcentury (male) art historians continue to insert gratuitous comments about Artemisia’s lax sexual mores. as in Tintoretto’s particularly beautiful version from 1555–6. Susanna looks furtively over her shoulder. in their accounts of her paintings. while Agostino contradicted himself. and was openly disbelieved by the judges. threatened by the two wolves of paganism and Judaism30 —by the time of the Renaissance depictions of Susanna almost always focused exclusively on the scene in which she is found bathing naked in a garden. [Figure 2]. and Susanna was always presented as a symbol of purity—sometimes even representing the Church. as if conspiring with the elders.Alternatives to Confession 201 Despite the fact that it is Artemisia’s testimony which seems credible in the trial records. He was nevertheless back to work for his wealthy patrons at the end of that month. was contradicted by his friends. and functioned more as occasions for male painters and patrons to depict and view the nude female body than as opportunities for moral reflection. The space in which Susanna bathes is usually depicted as an Edenic paradise. even if. [Figure 3]. however. . In Rembrandt’s version. Exasperated by her international success in a man’s profession. the case appears to have been dismissed. Being involved in a rape trial in the Baroque invoked a permanent suspicion regarding a woman’s sexuality. Artemisia painted one of her earliest works.28 During the period leading up to the trial. In many early modern interpretations. as in Annibale Carracci’s etching from 1590. and do so despite the fact that there is no historical evidence for these claims other than the rumors originally circulated by Agostino Tassi and Cosimo Quorli. a site of sensuous pleasure. as was common for this period. 29 [Figure 1]. Artemisia would never escape the scandal surrounding the trial. as “a gallant enterprise mounted by two bold adventurers. since he spent a total of eight months in prison. Such art historians engage in a style of scholarship which is unheard of in academic studies of the works of male artists.27 Agostino must have been deemed guilty.

Agostino and Cosimo. This whispering pose is suggestive of the manner in which two other men.202 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault Artemisia’s version of the story is strikingly different from those of her male contemporaries. This time. 34 Augustine . just as the Elders threatened the biblical heroine with slander. There is no garden in Artemisia’s painting. art historians have frequently interpreted Artemisia’s Susanna and the Elders as an autobiographical work. Painted near the time of her rape and when she was threatened by slander by two men. Artemisia’s Susanna may be read as a rebuttal and critique of the depictions of Susanna painted by her male contemporaries. The work. clearly this work is not a confession but a defense. not only in their vulnerability to rape. are whispering to one another in a conspiratorial manner. however. In the case of Artemisia’s painting. as in Artemisia’s case. 32 Rather than displaying the erotic appeal of the naked female body. rumors and self-serving revisions to the story that follow and in which it is the victims who must defend themselves again. the accusations against Artemisia’s honor were indeed made and believed. is her absolute refusal to depict the heroine as seducing the Elders. much as Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with Agostino in the hopes that he would mend her honor through marriage. and the credible depiction of anguish on her face. A similar story can be told about the art historical development of depictions of Lucretia as has been sketched for the paintings of Susanna. In addition. the viewer is more likely to empathize with Susanna’s distress than with the Elders’ desires. the indisputable manner in which Susanna attempts to reject them. there is also “very little space in the Susanna. and the heroine submits to the rapist to protect her reputation. contributing to the emotional intensity of the work. Not a painting of Artemisia harassed by Agostino and Cosimo but of Susanna being threatened by the Elders in ancient times. and as not merely about Artemisia herself. commentators have doubted that Lucretia was really raped.33 If autobiographical. Most striking about Artemisia’s version of Susanna and the Elders. but only a stone wall. has frequently been taken up by feminist art historians as an act of protofeminist activism. an eloquent declaration of Artemisia’s version of events. As in the case of Susanna. but in the trials. Artemisia shows Susanna’s body twisting awkwardly as she defends herself from the Elders who. another innocent heroine is threatened with slander by a rapist. however autobiographical. and have suggested that she experienced some pleasure with Tarquin. Beginning with Augustine. even if in the end it was the Elders and Agostino who gave contradictory testimony and were deemed guilty by judges. and threatened to launch a whispering campaign to ruin her reputation should she refuse them. As Griselda Pollock notes. the threats culminate in an actual rape. even if the depiction of Susanna is not a self-portrait. this work has been read as a statement about the sexual victimization of women in general and not only of Artemisia. in the only known case of this iconography.” which places the viewer too close to the victim and creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. In this case. conspired to rape Artemisia. however.

a virtuous heroine of Roman legend who has been threatened with slander. medieval and early renaissance representations of Lucretia portray multiple episodes from her story in which Lucretia’s innocence is never doubted. As such. from 1612. Artemisia highlights the manner in which with rape it is often the victim who suffers throughout or with her life. the Roman artist once more declared her innocence in the face of persistent rumors. this is an autobiographical painting which is not confessional but which arguably functions as a self-defense and a re-presentation of the artist against the lies which were being told. baroque artists frequently represented Lucretia as compliant to or even as seducing her rapist. [Figure 7]. Against Derrida’s generalization that all self-portraits in the Christian tradition are confessions. the identification of male artists with guilty and the suffering figures seems to have served not as erotic innuendo but as an expression of contrition and religiously-inspired fear: Michelangelo. As in the painting of Lucretia. as in one seventeenth-century version by Giovanni Biliverti in which Lucretia writhes on the bed in order to display her entire body to the viewer while pushing Tarquin away with one arm and pulling him towards her with the other. During the Italian Renaissance and Baroque. Instead. In addition. [Figure 8]. presumably making a purely secular point. Judith Beheading Holofernes. the testimony of a rape victim is cast into doubt. In contrast. and in two paintings by Caravaggio. while Agostino soon went free. As with depictions of Susanna. St. as in Donatello’s sculpture. late . David and Goliath. smiling as she does so. just as it was Artemisia who was damaged by the legacy of scandal. In some of these cases. John the Baptist. she would have preferred to be killed by Tarquin than to be raped. [Figure 6]. increasingly misogynist renaissance and baroque versions of the story focused on eroticized representations of the scene of rape. he states. the feather on the decapitated head of Donatello/Goliath caresses the beautiful young David’s thigh. Artemisia draws again on an Old Testament story. In what is perhaps her most famous work. and in which her rape is never eroticized. painting a decade after her own rape. As in Artemisia’s case. Artemisia represents the aftermath of Lucretia’s rape: her suicide. as she had done with Susanna and the Elders.Alternatives to Confession 203 argues that Lucretia committed suicide out of guilt regarding her own pleasure rather than to save her honor. however. In contrast. and Goliath. artists would paint their mistresses’ features on their depictions of Salomé or Judith. for instance. functioning as a confession of homosexual guilt and desire. in Botticelli’s and Lippi’s cassone panels. as. Artemisia’s version from 1621—which this time is a selfportrait—declines to depict the moment of Lucretia’s rape. In other works. [Figure 5]. while in Donatello’s work. it was common for male artists to paint their own features on the decapitated heads of Holofernes. By choosing to depict herself as Lucretia. as in several versions by Titian. for instance. Had she cared about her honor. Artemisia paints a self-portrait of herself as the heroine of her work. and does not eroticize the female body.

Artemisia’s depiction of Judith’s maid. Abra is young and strong. However Abra was conventionally represented as an old woman whose passivity contrasts with the activity of the younger woman. or to what her society said must have been. it was standard in baroque compositions to depict Abra standing beside the bed. it is two women who decapitate a man rather than two men who threaten a woman. Artemisia tells her own version of events. the head of Holofernes is thought to be a portrait of Agostino Tassi. and in contrast to depictions of the decapitation of Holofernes by other artists. feminist art historians have argued that Artemisia portrays herself as an innocent heroine against the rumors which continued to circulate. is noteworthy. the male artist identifies with a guilty. In contrast. but to what she insisted could have been. Also as in the Susanna. sadly observing the flaying of Marsyas. discourses which were reflected in contemporary depictions of Susanna and Lucretia and which arose during and following Artemisia’s own rape trial. we are uncomfortably close to the protagonists who are unusually near to the picture frame. Following this interpretation of the work. have one close female friend. in contrast. She thus does not confi ne herself to what was. Sensationally. and during the trial Artemisia would accuse Tuzia of having acted as a procuress for Agostino. Tuzia. As in the Susanna. Once more. that they moved together three times. painted his features on the flayed skin of St. She did. however. but as an active heroine. at a time in life when he has set aside earthly pleasures and come to fear the final judgement of God. Bartholomew in the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement. Tuzia was. vigorously collaborating with her mistress. Artemisia depicts herself not as a guilty and suffering figure but as the virtuous and active heroine. however. and in her Judith re-presents herself not as another passive victim. Now. plotting with the latter and giving him access to Artemisia against her will. and to Artemisia in particular. Mary Garrard has suggested that Artemisia’s unusual depiction of the killing of Holofernes as an act of female solidarity is wistful: Artemisia was the only daughter in a motherless home. In Artemisia’s painting. Abra remained outside the room while Judith killed Holofernes. also close friends with Agostino Tassi. while in one of his last works. in her version of Judith and Holofernes. While according to the biblical version of the Judith story. for her part. as in the Lucretia and Susanna. her neighbor Tuzia. In each of these cases. which would have been recognizable to Artemisia’s peers. drawing on her historical field and the canon of her culture. humiliated. dying or dead male body. Instead. Titian painted himself as King Midas. Abra. two of whom lean over a third figure who is in excruciating anguish. chose to . Artemisia creates a triangular configuration of three figures. regretting his own artistic hubris as he awaited his death by the plague. we might say that Artemisia refused to be disciplined by the blame-the-victim misogynist discourses of the early modern period. living with her father and four brothers.204 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault in his life and increasingly devote. So close were Tuzia and her daughter to the Gentileschi household. however.

Artemisia has nevertheless taken a greater distance from the scene. and the manners in which her works may have functioned as practices of self-fashioning against and despite the representations of others. instead of two men raping a woman. consistently and publicly identifying with the biblical heroine through the uses of self-portraiture. this double portrait. Far from confession. and this as a heroic rather than a shameful deed. a lovely. caused considerable unease and difficulty in representation. First. The women are respectively focused on employing a heavy blade and pinning a man forcefully to a bed. artists downplayed the violence and eroticized Judith. bejeweled and feminine Judith is shown drawing away from the decapitation of Holofernes as if in disgust. to be replaced with a more agreeable sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa. as well as other episodes from Judith’s life. while her slender arms do not seem to be engaged realistically in their task. Garrard suggests that Artemisia fantasized a female solidarity in her art which she had not found in life. I will only briefly indicate the directions this might take. Artemisia’s self-portrait as Judith and her depiction of Abra show robust young women with strong arms. and the sheets are soaked with blood. fashionably dressed. There is more space around the three figures who are set further back in the picture plane. surely not sufficient for sawing through bone. her brow furrowed and her lips pursed. who does not betray her. young. delicate. The depiction of a woman outsmarting and killing a man.Alternatives to Confession 205 take Agostino’s side during the trial. however. while Abra is an elderly woman who seems disgusted by the beheading and has nothing to do with the scene she witnesses. the work is of an unprecedented gore. two women are beheading a man. to which work Artemisia’s version is often compared. A few clean and unconvincing spurts of blood flow from Holofernes’s neck in Caravaggio’s work. Here. the story of Judith was a contentious one. Now. In contrast. and Judith wields a slender blade. In other attempts to negotiate the representation of a man’s outwitting and decapitation by a woman. perhaps referring to but reversing another scene of violence that took place in a bed. 35 Even more so than with depictions of Susanna and Lucretia. seems to function as a rewriting of events. henceforth to live in the male-dominated world of professional painting. Most strikingly of all. as had not happened in her own life. This time. Artemisia would paint the beheading of Holofernes several times. [figure 9] In Carravagio’s painting. An analysis of Artemisia’s re-presentations of herself against the sensational and vicious discourses that surrounded her life. in renaissance Florence a sculpture of Judith with the Head of Holofernes was removed from the masculine sphere of the main piazza. which is even more gory (the blood spurts in the air). Betrayed by her female companion and bereaved of her friendship. as in Caravaggio’s depiction of the scene from 1598. Indicative of this discomfort with the theme. could be elaborated further. it is . In her later version of the decapitation of Holofernes. from 1620. the guilty male suffers and the virtuous woman triumphs with the help of her female friend.

Gone also. [Figure 11]. and her paintings which focused on violent sexual relations between men and women were interpreted as autobiographical statements even in her own day. At this time. it is a later artist who confessed for her. strong. and which have pleased feminist art historians for not catering to a male gaze. come-hither eyes. the artist whom they had claimed as a “feminist” “heroine. and Mary Garrard argued at length that it could not belong to Artemisia’s oeuvre. and her compelling facial expression of anguish. Artemisia also painted a later version of Susanna and the Elders in 1622. is the artist’s desire to invoke compassion for Susanna in her viewer. [Figure 10]. As such. Instead.”36 Although signed and dated. Artemisia also began to paint the sorts of eroticized and idealized young female bodies which patrons desired. and her idealized body is soft and compliant. . seems to show that Artemisia “moved on” in her life. and while Artemisia—perhaps due to her unhappy encounter with her perspective teacher—never painted landscapes. it is composed according to a more typically baroque iconography than the earlier work. the work is indeed Artemisia’s. a passion which by the Baroque was associated with artistic creativity. the heroine looks wistfully over her shoulder at the men. 37 As it turns out. instead of the images of heavy. identifying more with her career and vocation than with the sexual trauma of her youth. repainting her work and signing it with her name. This new identification with art-making itself. but x-radiography has shown that it was partially repainted by another artist: the face as we now see it was a later addition. it seems. but often awkward and unidealized women which had characterized her early work. Artemisia was known in her own lifetime as she is today for her rape trial as much as if not more so than for her art. depicting Susanna gazing seductively at her aggressors with doe-like. As the work exists. which seems far removed from the trauma of rape and the early paintings of sexual violence which have fascinated feminist art historians. as even Garrard now acknowledges. the original architectural space of Susanna’s garden has been opened up on the left to display a perspectival view of trees. Artemisia seems to have healed psychically at least to the extent that after a decade had gone by she no longer felt compelled to reiterate her versions of events. Artemisia also depicted herself as Melancholy. are gone. the signature of this work was heatedly contested. In this later work. however. that while Artemisia refused to confess to the accusations against her either under torture or in her art. the awkward gestures of the fi rst Susanna.206 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault interesting to note that Artemisia later ceased to identify herself with virtuous heroines in sexually violent scenarios and portrayed herself as an allegory of Painting instead. to proclaim her innocence or to avenge herself against Agostino Tassi through her art. for Artemisia to paint a half-consenting Susanna would have been read by her contemporaries as a confession following repeated denials. This sign of complicity on Artemisia’s own part in the sexist blaming of female victims has indicated for feminist art historians that this second Susanna could not have been painted by Artemisia. We now know.

Gilje’s work is meant to be a contemporary rather than a baroque reflection on sexual violence against women. there is. of course. framed. imagines a more active heroine. Restored. Much as feminist art historians have read Artemisia’s Judith Beheading Holofernes as the artist’s fantasy of revenge. and in these cases. a melancholic Mary Magdalen. and Susanna now flails and howls in fury and pain. X-ray (1998). Artemisia’s late works are nevertheless not as open to arguments of proto-feminist heroism as are the fi rst paintings produced in the decade following her rape. and subverts the Susanna story to imagine what could have been. which. One could nevertheless argue that the fact that the later Artemisia re-presented herself through identifications with her profession. portraying herself as Painting itself and as the melancholic passion which inspires art. while conforming to and successfully competing with the works of her male contemporaries. [Figure 13]. calling it Susanna and the Elders. is remarkably self-empowered. unlike in the baroque repainting. no pretense of passing the new works off as Artemisia’s own. This would also mean that Artemisia no longer perceived herself in the manners in which her contemporaries continued to describe her. is not to be interpreted as a feminist failure but rather. so Gilje also imagines a potentially bloody revenge against Susanna’s aggressors. Despite the salvaging of a feminist interpretation of Artemisia’s later Susanna. appropriating it as her own work with only minor adjustments. Restored (1998). one who loudly voices her fury and threatens the lives of the elders rather than allowing them to threaten hers. for an early modern woman. however. transforming her sufficiently so that she no longer identified primarily as a player in a sordid sexual tale. but also painted a second version. pulling her head back violently. and could thus identify herself with her career rather than with her relations with men. Gilje. The self-portrait as Melancholy is. For feminist art historians such as Mary Garrard this is clearly a disappointment. In the second of these works. and despite explicitly feminist adaptations of Artemisia’s earlier Susanna such as Gilje’s.Alternatives to Confession 207 Other and very different repaintings of Artemisia’s Susanna—this time of the 1610 Susanna—have been carried out by the late twentieth-century art restorer and artist Kathleen Gilje. Through re-presentations of herself fi rst as an innocent . that non-confessional autobiographical painting “worked” for Artemisia as a care of herself. Gilje not only repainted. the elders are not only whispering but have grabbed Susanna by the hair. While the Susanna of the biblical story rejects the elders. rather than killing the elders before they could slander or rape her. Susanna and the Elders. however tentatively. once more. [Figure 12]. she is nevertheless a passive victim: she refuses the advances of the elders out of submission to patriarchal expectations of feminine virtue. and displayed an almost exact copy of Artemisia’s earlier Susanna. for instance. Gilje has upped the emotional intensity of Artemisia’s already highly dramatic depiction of the story. She also grasps a knife. as an indication that Artemisia ceased to be haunted by the rape and the need to depict it. One might suggest.

Roman history. As shall be seen in the cases of Rivière and Barbin below. For a time. Artemisia. even dictating parts of the lost manuscript to Banti for the other woman to rewrite. these were biblical stories. are characters who interact in the novel in complicated and even antagonistic ways. Artemisia ceases to speak to Banti in the second half of the novel. For Artemisia. Artemisia did so by drawing on resources from her cultural field. Banti. however. trial and artistic career. and these writings can be considered as yet other selfwritings.” which most interpreters have taken to be Banti’s character Artemisia soothing the author over her losses. Banti and Artemisia.” is evident in their writings on this artist. Banti says. 38 In both cases. Banti had almost completed a draft of her book in 1944 when it was destroyed in the Nazi bombings of Florence. although another female art historian. Banti is not sure that she will rewrite the story of Artemisia’s life after her first manuscript is destroyed. and later still as an embodiment of Painting itself. the two women.208 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault victim and later as a virtuous heroine. Artemisia did not simply adopt the resources she found in her culture. and the canon of early modern art. In the opening words of the novel. since Artemisia is also distressed by the destruction of the book which would fi nally have told her tale. a voice says “Don’t cry. and wants it to be told her way. Banti begins her second version of the book. Artemisia resisted the misogynist discourses which surrounded her life. or what Griselda Pollock has called “feminist desire. but which Pollock assumes to be Banti’s own voice comforting Artemisia. with a description of herself weeping in the Boboli gardens over her lost manuscript and lost home. she took this silence to be consent from the other . but “teases” Artemisia. Like Rivière and Barbin. Yet the character Artemisia wants her story told. Alexandra Lapierre. but subverted them selectively against their dominant interpretations in order to make them suit her purposes in the reconstruction of her life. has also resorted to a fictional telling of Artemisia’s story. does not submit to Artemisia’s dictations. doing what she wants with Artemisia’s story and changing it according to her own desires. written by the art historian Anna Banti. This eventually results in Artemisia’s departure. Artemisia. since the loss of Artemisia seems trivial among the proliferation of deaths in those days. The most obvious example of this autobiographical investment in Artemisia is to be found in the biographical and autobiographical novel. FEMINIST DESIRE AND THE CONTEMPORARY USES OF ARTEMISIA The autobiographical investment of feminist art historians in Artemisia. In either case. women writers turned to fiction because they wished to explore the Artemisia whom they knew from the paintings and the archives—including the trial records—in a genre which allowed for greater fantasy and imagination than the academic writing in which they had been trained.

been challenged in at least two ways. The claustrophobic lack of space in the painting. and this depiction of female anguish. the situating of the viewer too close to Susanna. . First. new historicists such as Elizabeth S. rather than from any self-consciousness challenge to patriarchy.”43 Those manners in which Artemisia’s version of Susanna differs from those of her male contemporaries are interpreted by Pollock as resulting from a “lack of initiation” on the part of the young artist. Discussing Artemisia’s earlier Susanna. Pollock argues. both of which highlight the manners in which feminist art historians read Artemisia’s work through the lens of their own lives and desires.41 Second. bought and hung?”42 Artemisia’s painting is conventional for the period in that it foregrounds an idealized female nude.Alternatives to Confession 209 woman. “would it have been painted. Other women art historians writing on Artemisia are also personally invested in the seventeenth-century artist. which partially explains the dramatic intensity of the work. and thus Banti must invent the story for herself. merely “heighten the sadistic pleasure offered by the painting. if Artemisia’s version was as “deviant” as feminist art historians have supposed. and that it is anachronistic to read Artemisia’s paintings as expressing her response to the trauma of rape (a shattering of her personal integrity) since she would not have experienced it as such. are projecting their own feelings about rape onto Artemisia’s paintings. but finally she realizes that Artemisia is gone. and that she should be (like them) feminist. Cohen have argued that the concept of rape as a traumatic psychological event is particularly modern. to the extent that this has become a criterion by which to determine which works are Artemisia’s. for instance. The fact that this nude is particularly vulnerable and anguished in Artemisia’s version might. even though they do not resort to Banti’s fictional and autobiographical mode of writing. Griselda Pollock compellingly shows that other interpretations can be developed which challenge the feminist reading of Artemisia’s works such as the one I have provided.” thereby increasing the “titillation for a male viewer. The manners in which Banti does so are forthright in their mingling of biography with autobiography. and although we might not like what this does to our “feminist Artemisia. may simply have resulted from the fact that Artemisia had not yet learned perspective. again. Pollock asks why. That some feminist art historians would not acknowledge the authenticity of Artemisia’s works if they were not adequately feminist suggests that they have a preconceived notion of what they want Artemisia to be. for instance. The fact that Susanna’s face expresses such intense anguish is also read by Pollock as a mark of artistic inexperience rather than a reflection of personal experience or a desire to challenge patriarchy. has disappeared into history and will no longer speak her thoughts or tell her own story. however.”39 at least Banti does not claim that her Artemisia is the historic one.40 Contemporary art historians. according to this argument. The feminist readings of Artemisia rehearsed above have.

despite the fact that the fi lm is presented as historical and biographical. premiere of the fi lm in 1998. “Why. . Even more disturbingly. but writes: “Mine is only a tentative counter-hypothesis.”44 In a later article. The interpretations which she provides function just as well as Garrard’s as possible explanations of the particular features of Artemisia’s paintings. Artemisia is portrayed as a sexually-obsessed adolescent. before her career had even begun. Our decision to believe that the unusual aspects of Artemisia’s work result from her biographical experiences rather than from her artistic inexperience has to do with desire. and ending with the close of the trial and Artemisia’s departure for Florence. she also wants to draw attention to what. it is that the fi lm focuses almost exclusively on Artemisia’s relationship with Agostino Tassi. ] The face of Susanna is also disturbing. we desire to see.S. for each interpretation is equally grounded in the visual aspects of the painting and in the archive. stealing candles to look at her . What exactly enraged feminists about this fi lm? First. writing: “For my money Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting of Judith Beheading Holofernes has nothing whatsoever to do with rape or her life experience. “as feminists. in the spirit of a devil’s advocate. Its expressive tenor is pitched almost too high [ . 48 At the U. and of the Susanna in particular. Pollock will also challenge the feminist interpretation of Artemisia’s Judith. is revealed in the outrage expressed by feminist art historians following the release of the fi lm by Agnès Merlet.” Pollock asks. This led Miramax to withdraw the claim that the film represented a “true story. as is Mary Garrard. ]. . The desire on the part of feminist art historians for a strong and feminist Artemisia. Meet the Real Artemisia Gentileschi. .” and encouraged readers to picket the screenings of the fi lm across the country. one semiotic reading of the painting that seeks to trace the level at which I might look for the inscription of difference. . Artemisia’s decades as a successful artist working in Florence.210 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault might only heighten a certain masculine scopic pleasure. Artemisia and her relationship with Agostino are portrayed in the fi lm in a manner which confl icts with the court records and Artemisia’s testimony in particular. Naples and the court of England are not represented in the film.”46 While Pollock herself wants to look for the difference a woman artist might make in art history. Gloria Steinem circulated a fact sheet written by Mary Garrard and herself entitled “Now You’ve Seen the Film. “is Susanna so distressed given the stage of the story represented? [ . for an Artemisia who triumphs through her work over the violence of her rapist and the sexism of her society. She is not heart-set on her interpretation.”45 Pollock seems to present these alternative readings of Artemisia’s works. beginning shortly before they meet in Rome. Artemisia. however.”49 although the fi lm is still presented as biographical rather than fictional.”47 and to show that the feminist readings of Artemisia’s paintings may have as much to do with the lives and desires of the art historians writing these texts as with the real Artemisia and her works.

spying on various people having sex and then imitating their amorous poses while alone. and is thus sentenced to two years of prison in an act of tragic self-sacrifice. and he poses for her Judith and Holofernes in particular. It is Artemisia’s provocative request that Agostino pose for her which leads the couple to have sex for the fi rst time. Merlet has Artemisia request that Agostino pose for her. he immediately stops having sex with her and apologizes in horror when he realizes what has happened. the historic Agostino’s wife was dead. he gave me pleasure!” Artemisia continues to sleep with Agostino in Merlet’s fi lm out of desire and love rather than in an attempt to salvage her honor. but nevertheless confesses to the rape in order to stop the torture of Artemisia’s hands. curious and impatient for sexual initiation. is covered by blankets—the fi lmic Artemisia’s insistence on drawing naked men is a central aspect of Merlet’s plot. like all other early modern women artists. When Artemisia’s father tells her that Agostino has raped her. and Agostino was suspected of her murder. it is only because Artemisia misleads Agostino to believe that she has already had a lover that he has sex with her. . for instance. in the fi lm. bribing a fisherman with sexual favors to pose nude for her. the fi lmic Artemisia leans over Agostino/Holofernes on a bed. In further aberrations. although this work was not painted until after the trial. and. Merlet’s Agostino loves Artemisia and would have married her if he had not been tied down by another wife. Later. Artemisia’s drawings of the bribed fisherman are close studies of the male torso and genitals. Merlet imagines Artemisia’s Judith and Holofernes—and the later Uffi zi version of 1620 at that—as instigating consensual love-making rather than as a fantasy of revenge following a rape. Merlet has Artemisia cry: “No. in Pollock’s words. posing as Judith in order to imagine the painting. Merlet’s Agostino would never have had intercourse with his friend’s daughter had he known she was a virgin. is “an understandably distressing but desired defloration within the context of a powerful sexual and intellectual attraction between the young woman and the older man. fighting with her father for the right to draw male nudes. the historic Artemisia never depicted nude male bodies in any of her paintings—her Holofernes. thus seducing him to have sex with her in a scene which. positioning his body and leading to further sexual encounters.Alternatives to Confession 211 naked body in a mirror. Agostino takes these drawings of male genitals as a “confession” that Artemisia is not a virgin. and eventually asking Agostino Tassi to pose for her naked.”50 Although. and so nothing was preventing him from marrying Artemisia had he wished to do so. insinuating that she is sexually experienced. Indeed. in the defloration scene. She says nothing to enlighten him. In fact. Agostino is falsely accused in the film of having raped Artemisia. and these drawings are used in court to prove that Artemisia is a dishonorable woman (and thus could not have been raped). and are also what she presents to Agostino Tassi to convince him to become her teacher. Taking the fi lmic Artemisia’s obsession with the male nude further.

and Miramax marketed the fi lm as “Erotic!” and as the story of a “Forbidden Passion [that] Changed The Face of History. and the case was consequently dismissed. and Merlet’s point is arguably that female sexuality and agency have been violently suppressed by patriarchy in ways which have harmed both women and men: Agostino. as an example of a fictional but ethical appropriation of Artemisia’s life. Moreover. and Artemisia all lose as result of Orazio’s interference in his daughter’s love affair. as are many aspects of this film. Merlet’s Artemisia is a sexually-liberated rebel. are that it presents this reading as the historical truth even while blatantly disregarding the archives. is thus another feminist reading of Artemisia’s life. as the end of the fi lm suggests. the Agostino of Merlet’s fi lm says he will say nothing against Artemisia. which means that we must acknowledge what we are doing rather than trying to pass it off as historical truth. whom he wishes to protect. they do nevertheless remain faithful to the historical documents which we have.212 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault when in fact Agostino sat silently through Artemisia’s torture. desire. however. suggest that in her distortions of the archive Merlet tries to “acknowledge female sexuality and desire. The problems with the film. as Pollock points out.” The claim that Artemisia’s passion (for art? for sex? for Agostino?) changed the face of history is unclear. only Griselda Pollock has tried to explore an at least tentatively favorable reading of Merlet’s fi lm. Among feminist art historians.”52 Much as Gilje takes Artemisia’s depiction of a passively victimized Susanna and imaginatively transforms her into an active heroine who fights back against her aggressors with a knife. This claim is untrue. If we want to change Artemisia’s story according to our feminist desires. although she ultimately condemns it for its “nontrivial inaccuracies. and yet. which she contrasts . While Garrard and other feminist art historians may read the archives through the lens of their desires. starting from the alleged evidence of seventeenth-century paintings saturated with an intense corporeality and sense of the ambiguities of sexuality. however fictitious. whereas the real Agostino slandered Artemisia’s name. becoming the most famous artist of them all. Merlet’s fi lm. Artemisia nevertheless manages to triumph.”51 She does. refusing to confess. however. and violence. Pollock suggests that we should do so ethically. Pollock takes Anna Banti’s novel. so Merlet takes a passively victimized Artemisia and imagines her actively desiring and instigating a sexual relationship which her patriarchal society would have forbidden. Artemisia. It reads against the painful archival records of a passively victimized Artemisia in order to fi nd a woman who is an agent pursuing her sexual desires. Orazio. Merlet presents the Agostino-Artemisia relationship as a love affair which is spoiled by the unfortunate intervention of Artemisia’s misguided and jealous father. but probably relates to the text which appears at the end of the fi lm and which claims that Artemisia was art history’s fi rst woman artist to receive commissions.” and that the film addresses “the scandal of a woman’s desire.

53 Investments in gender are clearly at stake for both male and female viewers of Artemisia’s work. on the basis of their high quality alone. not Artemisia’s. Art historians have told Artemisia’s story as a mixture of historical fact and autobiography with varying degrees of self-consciousness. even while doing so challenges and subverts the canon in which Artemisia. which they take to be self-evident proof that the works were painted by a man. In contrast. much as Merlet rewrites Artemisia’s life in order to express her own feminist desires. and recognizes that this is her own depiction of events. and judicial documents which archived the . In so doing. much as Artemisia refused the misogynistically gendered discourses of her own day through her art. Just as Artemisia drew on but re-wrote and subverted resources which she found in her own cultural canon. medical. What the two nineteenth-century texts have in common is that both memoirs. In each of these cases. they project their own feminism onto the woman painter whom they admire. to the extent that skills in connoisseurship may be over-ridden by political and personal desires. continually attributing Artemisia’s work to her father. has long been marginalized. evade and refuse the disciplinary discourses which surrounded them. feminists are engaged in the rewriting of themselves. so feminist art historians as well as fiction-writers and artists draw on the works of Artemisia as part of their own cultural field. including that of Merlet’s fi lm. as a woman. even while disregarding the testimony which the artist maintained under torture. and yet Gilje signs the painting with her own name. THE MEMOIR OF PIERRE RIVIÈRE Foucault would edit and publish two nineteenth-century autobiographical texts which he discovered in archives while preparing to write Discipline and Punish and the fi rst volume of The History of Sexuality. Foucault publishes the memoirs alongside the legal. This is of course true of all historians. and feminist art historians in particular have chosen to speak of Artemisia’s life and work because they identify with them. male historians considering Artemisia’s work have to this day manifested their political and personal stakes in patriarchy. in their different ways. the autobiographical investment on the part of readers of Artemisia’s life and work is interesting because it shows the manners in which interpreters are inscribing their selves in the readings they write. This in turn indicates the manner in which art historians are engaged in technologies of the self. In rewriting the canon of Western art and in reinterpreting the works of Artemisia Gentileschi. Merlet pretends that the story she tells is that of the historic Artemisia. and of male art historians as much as of feminist art historians.Alternatives to Confession 213 with Merlet’s reading. We could also return to Kathleen Gilje’s painting as another example of an ethical reading of Artemisia: Gilje repaints Artemisia’s work to make a contemporary feminist point.

and we ourselves should have fallen into the trap it set. In the next two sections I will consider these memoirs and the manners in which they suggest to Foucault that textual strategies exist. The memoirs also describe the manners in which Barbin and Rivière managed to reject these same disciplinary constraints in their lives. and may be invented. my sister and my brother .” describing himself as under Rivière’s “spell. the implication seems to be that the only way to avoid the “trap” of “power relations” is to remain silent. precisely in order to demonstrate the premeditated authorship of his crimes. having been refused the execution he desired. and moreover as pervasive. .”55 At fi rst glance. acts. which maintain ambivalence of identity and which function as acts rather than subjections to discipline. Rivière’s contemporaries were amazed by the intellectual capacities which the text demonstrated in a youth who had long been considered the “village idiot” and “madman. . even. In his description of the case. Pierre Rivière . However. that power is seen here as necessarily “reductive” or negative. Capital punishment was denied Rivière because he was deemed mad. . Although. when no other means remained. Despite the ultimate judicial decision. rather than seeing the text as authored by disciplinary discourse and in turn authoring him. . silence can oppose power. . and would eventually hang himself in prison under a life sentence. Arguably Foucault tries to fi nd such alternative discourses. as well as an account of his own deeds and objectives. that he was sane and could thus be killed. the idea that silence can in itself set one outside of networks of power therefore seems too simple. and as avoidable through the simple stance of silence. . and bodies of the two authors to make precisely this point. power is seen as always reciprocal and productive. In his introduction to “I. rather than the discovery of new and subversive forms of discourse. Foucault agrees with Rivière’s self-designation as “author” of both his act and his text.214 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault lives. having slaughtered my mother. is at odds with Foucault’s more in-depth accounts of disciplinary power in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction and Discipline and Punish. as does the suggestion that the answer to the role of discipline in confession would necessarily be silence. Here. through suicide. a much as Mary Garrard reproduces Artemisia’s art alongside the records of her rape trial.” and Foucault is equally “astonished.”54 In his Preface to “I. like speech. despite the fact that he had produced a surprisingly articulate and lengthy document describing the lives of his mother and father as context for his triple murder.” Foucault says he has decided not to analyze Rivière’s memoir because to interpret it “should have brought it within the power relation whose reductive effect we wished to show. Rivière is shown to have rejected the . and sees Rivière’s own memoir as such a text which negotiates and confounds disciplinary power. as we might have expected of Foucault.” Foucault considers the documents surrounding a young French peasant who killed half of his family in the expectation of execution. Pierre Rivière.” seduced by what he repeatedly calls the text’s “beauty.

but. legal and penal authorities urged him to accept. In “Tales of Murder” Foucault goes on to say something about Rivière’s memoir after all. Rivière’s is not a confession in Foucault’s sense of attempting to explain his deed by revealing his inner self. This explains why. a confession admits to a form of being rather than to specific deeds. when the police interrogator says to Rivière: “confess [ .Alternatives to Confession 215 disciplinary discourses which medical. would simultaneously function as an excuse. Rivière was. under duress. which nature. because his words were decided upon while they were still irritatingly alive. however. being unluckily born with a ferocious character. Foucault claims that Rivière’s text is not a confession.” refusing any separation of text and act. whether by family members whom he feared would read the text. ] that. In the trial. Finally. and does not view it as a mere concession to disciplinary power. but rather a factor in the crime. as he would have liked. however. Rivière refuses to explain the deed in terms of his character or of a pattern of behavior dating to childhood. therefore. for Derrida. he tells the reader. but he resists authoritative attempts to guide his discourse in this direction. Though Foucault says little. In both his memoir and in the police transcripts from his interrogation. 57 However he never excuses himself or engages in what Derrida has called the apologetic-confessional mode. Nevertheless denied a death sentence on the grounds of madness. thus postponing his suicide. arguing that it is “neither confession nor defense. Under questioning. In the end. the two continually switching orders. of claiming to have followed the orders of God. Rivière decided to commit the murders fi rst and to write the memoir later. Rivière’s text and acts were of equal importance and not kept distinct. his words were prepared in advance and he writes from memory. he is able to describe the dead in the unforgiving manner which he does. Rivière not only never resorts to such self-exploration. despite the text’s function as premeditated acknowledgement of the triple murder. He very quickly abandons his strategy of pretending to be insane. . he certainly admires it. Moreover. although Rivière at no time denies committing his crime. continually interrupted in his task of writing his memoir before the deed. expresses contrition. as he insists. Rivière was given the opportunity to write his memoir in prison. . you wished to steep yourself in the blood . For instance. a month after the crime. or by his own fatigue. but on the question of whether or not he was sane. and precisely because he considers his own taciturnity a mark of respect towards the work. For Foucault. Rivière took his own life. insisting on deciding his fate rather than living in the hands of disciplinary authorities. and at a few points. and instead provides a rationalized explanation for his behavior both under interrogation and in his memoir. declining psychological and psychiatric accounts of his crime. 56 The text and crime continually switch orders because Rivière had initially intended to write his explanation of the crime before committing the murders and killing himself. or admits to deeds as indicative of a certain nature. which focused not on Rivière’s acts and rationalized motives.

I shall tell the truth. rejecting external explanations for Rivière’s crime.” Rivière replies: “I repeat: God ordered me to do what I did.” As such. rather than explaining them as consequences of his character or his feelings. denies such an explanation. crushed young birds between two stones and pursued your young playmates threatening to put them to death with instruments you carried?” Rivière. I did it to help my father out of his difficulties. Despite Rivière’s own version of events. I only happened sometimes to kill birds by throwing stones at them. 59 Rivière thus returns to his original plan of claiming full and sane authorship of his deeds. Only moments later Rivière changes his story: I wish no longer to maintain the system of defense and the part which I have been acting. Rivière’s parish . but again. who was ruining him. of having. for instance. not one which had marked his own soul. and the manners in which his sister had taken his mother’s part. as in the second interrogation when he was told: “The investigation has proved against you certain acts which would denote an instinct of ferocity in your character. as schoolboys do to kill cocks. the police interrogators persisted in suggesting to Rivière that he was innately cruel. Rivière gives a more detailed account of all of the manners in which his mother had caused his father to suffer from the beginning of their marriage until the time of her death. however.216 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault of your mother whom you had long abominated [ . written in prison over the period of two weeks. ]. revelatory of his inner self. Never does Rivière say that he murdered half of his family for the internal suffering that they had caused him. . who was driving him to such despair that he was sometimes tempted to commit suicide. As Foucault’s students Jean-Pierre Peter and Jeanne Favret note.”60 The police officer. In his memoir. rather than assenting to the police officer’s explanation of a self instinctively prone to violence. I killed my sister Victoire because she took my mother’s part. the explanation of his deed derives from external motivations and not from an inner compulsion. I killed my brother by reason of his love for my mother and my sister.”61 He thus once more refuses to confess to an intrinsically violent character or to a history of violence which can be traced back to his childhood. . he claims to have killed them to save his father from further “tribulations. I wished to deliver him from an evil woman who had plagued him continually ever since she became his wife. telling Rivière: “You are accused of having in your childhood committed various acts of cold-blooded and deliberate cruelty. rather. and instead claims to have been no different from other schoolboys. He replies: “I do not remember doing that. Rivière sacrificed himself to end a suffering which he had witnessed. Rivière thus continues to give external justifications for his actions. tries to establish the murder as part of a history of violence on Rivière’s part.”58 thus attributing an external cause to his actions.

”68 claiming that from the age of four it was clear that Rivière would grow up to commit crimes such as he had done.”65 In the “Bill of Indictment.” of having “evil propensities” and an “evil character. . “once Rivière killed. Never did he show a son’s affection for his father and mother. At times he felt a wave of something like repulsion and frenzy when she approached him. Vastel refers to Rivière as “Born as he is with this unfortunate predisposition. In the case of Rivière.67 Dr. affi rmation for such an explanation was sought from witnesses to Rivière’s life. or we might say that once more an individual who refuses to confess is spoken for: From his childhood Pierre Rivière was an affl iction to his family.” and in several of the other medical examinations Rivière underwent. Rivière’s physical appearance are taken as indicative of an unstable mind and a bestial nature. Pierre Rivière displayed a harshness of character in all his habits which much distressed his family. “Certainly no one would have thought anything more of it had it not been for the murders he has committed. to which the dossier which Foucault publishes with Rivière’s memoir attests.Alternatives to Confession 217 priest also declines to consider Rivière’s childhood behaviors as indicative of a murderer’s soul when he says. His mother especially was odious to him. it was not long before he confi rmed what could be predicted of him. however. In the “Report of the District Prosecutor Royal at Vire.”69 As with sexual “perverts” in the nineteenth century. his forehead is narrow and low.” Rivière is said to have displayed a “savage character” since childhood and to have manifested a “predisposition to cruelty. or that they would be visibly and physiologically predisposed to whatever activities it was now known that they had committed. He is remembered to have been seen in his childhood taking pleasure in crushing young birds between two stones and pursuing children of his age with instruments with which he threatened to kill them [ . his bestial character could be seen because. In the “Application to Pre-Trial Court for Committal. Vastel. his eyebrows arch and meet.” the story to which Rivière himself refused to assent is given. all of Rivière’s previous acts were now recast as foreshadowing his eventual murders: as Peter and Favret write. ]64 Similarly. and his furtive glances seem to shun . in the “Statements by Witnesses.” Rivière is described as having had “the cruelest propensities” since “his earliest youth.”63 Since Rivière refused to affi rm theories of an inherent murderer’s self. even being with his parents was a burden to him. and speaks of Rivière’s madness as “hereditary. it was assumed that criminals would have clues to their behaviors written on their bodies and faces. he was obstinate and taciturn.” Rivière’s sadistic character and madness are attested to as having been evident since early childhood. . “He is short.”66 In the “Medical Opinion By Dr.”62 For everyone else. he constantly keeps his head down. all his games became signs of madness.

author of this deed. and refused to spend the remainder of his life confi ned to an institution. Rivière refused to confi rm the essentializing stories proposed to him. the native’s speech had no weight. As with Jouy. Rivière’s innate predisposition was deemed the actor of the mad deeds and mad memoir. As Peter and Favret write. Instead. Rivière refused only certain forms of discourse—disciplinary. such criminals were only disturbed children who played with corpses as they played with words. “Particulars and explanation of the occurrence on June 3 at la Fauctèrie by Pierre Rivière. . and psychiatrists—and adopted other discourses which were also available to him in his historical field as a peasant in rural Normandy. Artemisia re-presented and healed herself not by removing herself from her misogynist cultural field. like Artemisia.218 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault meeting the gaze of others [ . Foucault makes clear that Rivière. as Foucault points out. Pierre Rivière had been “impelled by a hellish spirit. . or. but by working within that field. and was examined repeatedly by no fewer than eight doctors and psychiatrists who testified in court.”73 In suicide. telling his own version of his story instead.”71 Rivière was not at fault because he was mad. as one newspaper wrote up the story. Rivière’s capital sentence was transformed into a sentence of life imprisonment. Rivière’s subsequent suicide “was the death of which a clumsy psychiatry had tried to cheat him” and “came precisely to frustrate these paternalistic reasons. confessing to his crime but not to his soul. Unlike Jouy. but he had to be imprisoned for life because he was a danger. “By having him reprieved [the psychiatrists] were refusing to hear him. We see Rivière’s similarly subversive use of biblical stories in his memoir and . doctors. Rivière was asked to speak about his feelings.”70 Based on evaluations such as these. did not refuse disciplinary discourses in order to produce an entirely free and novel discourse of his own. and biblical stories in particular. was not even an effect of monstrosity. Similarly. and his childhood. however. Rivière drew on and subverted the biblical history which he had learned in school and a form of sensational murder rapportage common to fly sheets and broadsides of his age.”72 For Peter and Favret. thus de-authorizing Rivière of both his memoir and his crime. Although Rivière had written his memoir under the title. thus confounding discipline in both discourse and deed. which for Foucault would be impossible. Rivière once more claimed authorship of his life and death. his thoughts. authoritative discourses coming from the police. subverting the manners in which she represented stories that were made available to her within her culture. they were declaring that. in writing his memoir and in his responses to his interrogators. That is. all things considered. the mentally simple peasant who paid a little girl for sexual favors and ended up spending the rest of his life in the hospital of Maréville.” medical authorities argued that it was not Rivière but his madness which had authored his actions and his text. he leaps rather than walks. ] his gait is jerky and he moves in bounds.

In one. For instance. it is Magdeleine Albert/ This monster . The “universal success” of these sheets./ Yes. Later. As with the “Yes. the song is placed between two deaths—murder and execution [ . it is Magdeleine Albert/ This monster.”75 Rivière was thus capable of drawing on biblical stories to defend his crimes. but they also presented the protagonists as heroes. “shows the desire to know and narrate how men have been able to rise against power. traverse the law. As Foucault writes.” Rivière begins his text with the declaration: “I. although those same commandments existed. “How did you come to believe later that there existed quite contrary commandments [to the Ten Commandments]?. my felonies. In Foucault’s words: he not only does not excuse it. clothed with a horror that inspires horror in himself. is not dissimilar to the broadsheet narratives of crime which were popular at the time. (“Let us recognize this execrable girl/ Yes.”) Secondly. . he writes his memoir in a manner which. these sheets were moralizing.” he astounded them by promptly replying: “God ordered Moses to slay the adorers of the golden calf. a female parricide declares: “You shudder. when Rivière returns to his original intention of claiming his actions as the deeds of a sane mind. sparing neither friends nor father nor son.”) Thirdly.”76 In these fictionalized narrations. . and thus embracing execution as a parricide. emphasizing the criminal’s heinous crime and deserved punishment.” Rivière responded: “Because I was specially inspired by God as the Levites were. frightful.Alternatives to Confession 219 in his responses to the police. feeling hearts. ]78 As in this genre of murder rapportage. as Foucault points out./And the sight of me inspires terror. and expose themselves to death through death.”74 Or again. murderers described their crimes and the gruesome punishments which they had willfully called down upon themselves. the criminal confesses openly. (“They condemn me to suffer death/ My hand struck off and my severed head/ Will deter all the great villains. it is I. he raises his voice to summon the justice which is about to engulf him. having slaughtered . but a horror which he claims for himself unshared. Rivière proudly proclaims his crime. in a manner which was deemed remarkable in a peasant farmer. I see. when the police told Rivière: “you knew full well that God never orders a crime. the criminal is depicted as speaking up when the punishment is imminent. he makes no concessions to his own monstrosity. abominable. according to Foucault. at the very instant of departure for the hulks. in the very moment before death. and despite the fact that at this point he was only feigning to be a religious fanatic. . Pierre Rivière. cruel. . my torment is ready. it is I. he calls down upon himself his condign punishment. he assumes for himself a law whose consequences he accepts. when he was asked.”77 In these fictional pre-execution laments. the criminal admits her crime. . my crimes are horrible/ And I have deserved the rigor of heaven/ Take heart. but proclaims it.

As such. and that she is fully aware of what that punishment will entail. simultaneously accepts the punishments of the law and unapologetically recounts the manner in which he flouted the law. Rivière said to passersby. “I die to restore them [my grandmother and father] peace and quiet. and that all the explanations of my crime are done. ] I therefore await the penalty I deserve [ .”80 and compares his slaughter to those of Napoleon and Charlotte Corday. those of the murders and that of his anticipated execution.220 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault my mother. . What this shows for Foucault is that Rivière for the most part successfully refused the disciplinary psychiatric discourses of his time and surrounding his case. opting instead to mobilize for his own purposes other discourses which were available to him in his historical field and which provided more space for claiming agency over his actions and his text. “go and make sure that my grandmother does not do herself any harm. and my brother . Rivière situates his narrative between two deaths. it is significant that Rivière not only used but subverted existing discourses: the fly sheet murder narratives were meant to be moralizing. . to great historical events. relishing the description of his heroic refusal to have complied to norms by which he nevertheless accepts to die. the agency or authorship which Foucault admires in Rivière’s text is not a pre-discursive one. . . he also describes setting off to Vire immediately after the murder because he “wished to have the glory of being the fi rst to announce this news.” and. I know the article of the penal code concerning parricide. while Rivière’s religious education had hardly been intended to provide him with the tools with which to premeditate and justify his crime. I die to restore her peace and quiet.”79 If this is a rare moment in which Rivière sounds contrite. refusing the more constraining ones and selecting those which can be adopted and subverted to cultivate agency and refuse the workings of discipline. so Rivière concludes his memoir with the words: “now that I have made known my monstrosity. Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered . modeling himself on Corday. As in the fly sheets. As he left the scene of the murder.” thus proclaiming and ennobling his willingness to die as a martyr immediately after performing the murders. In the case of both the biblical stories and the newspaper narratives which he drew on. as well as to the killings of biblical heroes. I await the fate which is destined for me. my sister. like the criminals in contemporary narratives. but the limited autonomy of choosing among available discourses. . .” Much as the fictionalized Albert acknowledges that she deserves her punishment. not to encourage murderers to further crimes. and still carrying his bloody weapon. she can be happy now. I accept it in expiation of my faults [ . Rivière. THE MEMOIR OF HERCULINE BARBIN According to Foucault’s introduction to the other nineteenth-century memoir he published. ].

her/his classmates. to claim a “truth” of her identity. This leads to a medical examination during which the doctor tells Barbin that s/he should consider him her/his “confessor. Herculine Barbin—later named Abel Barbin as a man—was assumed to be a girl at birth. that s/he should keep her/his body hidden. Barbin confesses to another priest. Hermaphrodites were examined . Barbin was thus obliged to officially become a man. what Foucault deems admirable and worthy of publication (with. Refusing this advice. S/he eventually became a schoolmistress. or her/his lover.”82 The result of this examination is the decision that Herculine’s designation as a female had been an “error” and that her/his “true sex” was male. Barbin was nevertheless aware that her/his body was different from those of other girls. friend of her/his mother. For instance. through kisses and embraces and words which were accepted as merely extravagant indications of platonic female friendship. The abbé responds with “wrath” and struggles with his inability to denounce Barbin. Barbin describes constantly and openly expressing her/his love and desire for her/his female companions. the two becoming lovers. the author of which. given the sacred vow of secrecy imposed on him by the confessional. and with the very intensity of her/his kisses. telling her/his mother of her/his uncertain sex at the same time. in the nineteenth century everyone had to have a “true sex. while for a long time it was accepted that hermaphrodites simply had two sexes. S/he describes fi rst confessing to an abbé that her/his sex is uncertain and that s/he is the lover of a girl. and doctors rather than the intersexed individuals themselves determined which sex this was. teaching young girls and sharing a room with another schoolmistress. or were neither entirely one sex nor the other but had characteristics of both. This medical “error” was legally “corrected” by a change in Barbin’s civil status. Barbin nonetheless recognized that with her/his masculine appearance.”81 Unlike Rivière. Barbin frequently confesses. thus consistently working and living intimately with unmarried girls and women as only another female in the nineteenth century could. s/he was sometimes suspected and surveilled. questioning Barbin’s pupils about her/his behavior when they come to him to confess. who urges her/his to become a nun. As Foucault notes. As a schoolmistress. now to a beloved Monseigneur. and grew up in a convent as a girl. of her/his relationship with her/his lover s/he writes: “An active though dissembled watch was kept over every step we took. This abbé nevertheless manages to exploit the power given to him by the confessional. once more. and later a bed.” it had to be either male or female. whether the nuns in the convent. Barbin confesses a third time. Despite this experience. and that they could choose which sex to live as. or to say who she “really” is. and also that s/he experienced desires and pleasures in the company of her/his female companions. ended her life in suicide.Alternatives to Confession 221 Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite. like Rivière. s/he fell in love with one of the other schoolmistress with whom s/he shared a room. little commentary) is the author’s refusal to “fi x” her subjectivity.

Barbin has faith in confession as an unburdening of her/his soul. Like them. S/he simply dresses differently and is treated differently as the result of some paperwork and new attire: “According to my civil status. Society was soon to teach me that I had shown stupid weakness. Barbin regrets her/his confession and her/his former faith in religious. in the aftermath of her/his change in civil status. Initially. because s/he now wore these clothes. s/he was of the “stronger sex” and could apply for a man’s employment. and legal authorities. however.”85 It is not that s/he really is that sex. s/he is almost as convinced as the doctors and the priests and the law that it is her/his “duty” to tell the truth of her/his sex. however. or that her/ his “true” self had not been revealed. Simply because s/he now wears men’s clothes. the Monseigneur could not have clasped Barbin’s hand or call her/him his friend as he would another man. Barbin comes to see sex as social. recognizing that the ways in which we conform to gender are more or less arbitrary. and that she must admit to it and live accordingly. calling me his friend!”86 Even after her/his confession and medical examination. s/he has not finally come to act publicly as what s/he had been all along.222 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault to know whether they were “truly” male or female. but he could do so once Barbin had donned men’s garments. at this point Barbin assumes that s/he must “truly” be one sex or the other. medical. “I was henceforth to belong to that half of the human race which is called the stronger sex. but that according to her/his “civil status” s/he was to be owned by it.” As s/he writes. When Barbin voluntarily gives her/his three confessions to priests. Throughout her/his text Barbin has shifted between masculine and feminine pronouns.” Barbin found her/ himself unemployed and poor in the big city. even while apparently .”84 At this point. although weak. Barbin seems to say. a matter of putting on gendered clothes. thus insisting on her/his gendered ambiguity through syntax. Quickly. miserable and “forgotten” by her/his former lover. S/he realizes that by coming to live as a man. Later. and her/his trust that they knew best. “Later I was to repent bitterly what I then regarded as an imperative duty. and was to punish me cruelly for it. His Excellency clasped my hand warmly. her/his decisions to put her/himself in the hands of the disciplinary authorities which demand them. because her/his body was still weak despite its official “belonging” to the “stronger sex. Likewise. and to have the matter settled once and for all. and the characteristics of the other sex which they displayed were considered secondary or unessential. and s/he left for Paris in the hopes of joining a railway company. and undergoes three medical examinations. having been given the civil status of a man seemed to offer a certain freedom and promise to Barbin. Barbin fully regrets her/his confessions. S/he laments having blindly gone along with what s/he considered to be her/his “duty. refusing to settle on either one to designate her/himself. At this point.83 and also has faith in medical practitioners that they can determine whether s/he is male or female.” s/he writes. the Monseigneur to whom s/he had given her/his third confession was able to “show me more freely all the affectionate benevolence that he had for me.

unlike Rivière. In his Question médico-légale de l’identité dans ses rapports avec les vices de conformation des organes sexuels.” for it is sentimental and flowery in the style common to nineteenth-century romances. . He does not seem to read the parts of Barbin’s memoir in which s/he expresses the delights and pleasures which s/he had had in her/his body and in her/his sexual organs. Auguste Tardieu reiterates the language of “truth” and “error” concerning Barbin’s sex. “set free” of the bonds of humanity. wondering if s/he must resort to crime. .” From the ecstacies of having two sexes. He publishes the memoir. assuming that all along s/he had one true sex. s/he is an angel. Rather. Although. however. starving and desperate in a garret in Paris. insisting that s/he is not a “degraded man. and is “immaterial. ] had his true sex recognized [ . and that all her/his woes had followed from the error in its initial determination. and Foucault publishes the detailed reports which precede from these examinations along with Barbin’s text.”90 He thus attributes Barbin’s suicide to miseries resulting from a mistake regarding her/his sex and from the emotional and psychological troubles caused by having malformed genitals.” S/he has “boundless space.” S/he is pure soul. following their advice that s/he undergo a medical examination and change in legal status. the sentimental style of Barbin’s writing turns to rage and a refusal of her/his designation as a man. however.” In the fi nal pages of her/his memoir. . . one of those sexless.” experiences “surges of pure ecstasy. Barbin now claims to have none. abandoned by the only lover s/he has ever had. We are about to see the victim of such an error. . who.” 87 earthly and fi lthy and shamed like other men. commits suicide with the use of a charcoal stove in February of 1868.Alternatives to Confession 223 believing the authorities that s/he has one “true sex. to be above those differences and “the slime that covers you . Barbin . now called Abel Barbin. because it nevertheless resists the legal and medical discourses surrounding it. after spending twenty years in the clothing of a sex that was not his own [ . her/his body was then given up to scientists to conduct all the examinations which they could desire to unlock the secret of her/his sex. and that her/his miseries began only when s/he confessed these pleasures to priests. As s/he had anticipated. . ] According to Tardieu. this case teaches the “lesson” that “malformation of the sexual organs exercises upon the emotional faculties and upon psychological health.”88 This angel. androgynous beings who “soar above all your innumerable miseries. Barbin now denies that s/he has any sex at all. Foucault claims that Barbin’s memoir verges on the “banal.89 As he writes: The extraordinary case that remains for me to report indeed furnishes the most cruel and painful example of the fatal consequences that can proceed from an error committed at the time of birth in the establishment of civil status. putting her/himself in their hands.” her/his soul drinking deeply of the “infinite.

obliterating any possibility of ambiguity. and in which angels. that Foucault esteems. and eventually claims to be neither sex but an angel. to conceive of another epistemological system in which sex is not something which is fi xed and true and which one is born with. Although one is inclined to agree with Judith Butler’s claim that Foucault romanticizes this text. As said. unlike the self which the doctors and lawyers try to discover. one manner in which Barbin is able to resist the discourses presented by the doctors and lawyers is through reading. Elsewhere. one’s pleasures and miseries. in her text as well as in her life-death. Barbin asks: “Doesn’t the truth sometimes go beyond all imaginary conceptions. one’s past. However it is clear that while Rivière drew on his biblical studies and readings of popular fly sheets. so Barbin draws on her culture and its canon. As Butler writes. one’s childhood. unlike the painfully explicit language of the medical reports. however exaggerated they may be? Have the Metamorphoses of Ovid gone further?”94 Ovid’s Metamorphoses. but describes multiple confessions and arguably confesses in the memoir itself. We see the influence of the romance novels in the flowery writing which. S/he is not “freely” producing a novel form of discourse in her memoirs.”93 Butler indeed accuses Foucault of forgetting this. the self which s/he describes. manages to remain forever vague about her sex organs. and that her/his own narrative takes place within an established set of literary conventions. As with Rivière. discourses from previous epistemological eras as well as contemporary discourses with which she can combat the disciplinary discourses of her own age. allow Barbin to think outside the modern two-sex system characteristic of her own age95. hermaphrodites and same sex lovers may exist. and of idealizing Barbin’s sexual experiences in the convent and as a schoolmistress as a sort of prediscursive polymorphous realm of sheer pleasure. s/he had received a classical education in the convent and was also an avid reader of contemporary romantic novels. and the iconography of angels. although part of her nineteenth-century French education. Barbin uses both masculine and feminine pronouns to refer to herself. Forced by disciplinary authorities to live as a man. and reads a good deal. is neither one sex nor the other. but draws on literature available to her which better suits her in explaining her life than do the .”91 and thus it is perhaps Barbin’s achievement of freedom. therefore. Like Rivière. but which may change and be plural (or neuter). a bit like Rivière chose to die rather than to submit to a life of discipline. Foucault has written that freedom is precisely such a remaining “undefi ned. Barbin chooses to die. without fi xing oneself as such. Simultaneously drawing on her studies of classical texts.224 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault does not avoid confession. Barbin has alternative discourses to draw on. that her/his nineteenth-century French education involved schooling in the classics as well as French Romanticism. and refuses to stay still. “One thing about Herculine we know is that s/he reads. As her/his memoir makes clear. as he had not done in the case of Rivière. his attention to it indicates that he thought that it was possible to say something about oneself.92 even while accusing it of being romantic.

like psychoanalysis. many autobiographies fall into the ruses of confession rather than liberating the author from them. Althusser’s text is a confession and an excuse. and that she must therefore be obliged to live as a man. unlike Barbin. The medico-legal discourses assume that Barbin must have one sex. AND FEMINIST PRACTICE Anna O. such as Althusser’s memoir. Bertha Pappenheim. and also. on the contrary. however. On the contrary. Unlike Rivière’s text. but had in fact deteriorated during the “cure.” the early psychoanalytic method which she had named and helped to invent. but. ACTING OUT: ANNA O. Althusser does not write in such a way as to defy or to subvert the disciplinary discourses surrounding his case.. Althusser’s writing continually resorts to the authority of his psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to affirm his non-culpability. nor as an affi rmation of his autonomy and his crime. are confessional and submit to the disciplinary discourses of medicine and law. while reading classical texts allows her/his to resist the claim that s/he must only and ever be a man. The nineteenth-century literary forms which Barbin draws on. and it is an effect of disciplinary power. unlike Rivière and Barbin.” however the doctors tried to gloss this fact in their study. In contrast to the self-fashioning writings of Herculine Barbin and Pierre Rivière. Foucault would note that. and to morphine. that desire must be heterosexual and hence that since she loves a woman she must be a man. a submission to power rather than an act. Althusser continually refers to the authority of psychiatric discourses on his case rather than authoring his own text and act. Unlike Rivière and Barbin. was not cured by the “talking cure. to use her real name. to declare his allegiance to these authoritative discourses and to use them as explanation for the inevitability of the murder he committed. Foucault would think that many autobiographical texts. L’avenir dure longtemps. Against Althusser’s identification with Rivière. whose treatment for hysteria was the basis for Breuer’s and Freud’s Studies On Hysteria. we should not view autobiography as a genre which straightforwardly fulfills this task. to that of Pierre Rivière.Alternatives to Confession 225 medico-legal stories. the confession of a murderer. submitting the particularities of bodies and organs to the loftier expressions of romantic love. was addicted to chloral. used to treat her acute . even while they so often take up the language of freedom. When her treatment by Breuer ended. He would think that Althusser was mistaken in comparing his own act of writing L’avenir dure longtemps. which caused her to suffer from convulsions. Althusser’s work shows his internalization of the ruse of confession. allow sex to remain vague and sentimental. his lack of freedom to have done otherwise. From this comparison it can be suggested that although autobiographical writings can be a strategy for liberating the subject from disciplinary power and for fashioning autonomy. to reflect upon the “truth” of his sex.

this is the only indication that we have of how she felt about its practice. as well as a book of short stories and a children’s book. Fourteen months after he had fi nished treating her. stating that “Psychoanalysis in the hands of the physician is what confession is in the hands of the Catholic priest. It depends on its user and its use.”96 In his description of his treatment of Pappenheim. solidified in 1888 when she moved to Frankfurt am Main and began a life of political and social activism. advocating reform in the education of women. In addition to her neuralgia. and tried to educate Western Jews about the plight of Eastern Jewish girls. whether it becomes a beneficial tool or a two-edged sword. and Italian during periods of her treatment with Breuer. Pappenheim fi rst worked in soup kitchens for Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Pappenheim became particularly involved in the problem of poverty-stricken Jewish girls from Eastern Europe being sold into the white slave trade. and this helped her greatly. More reticent with her confessions in later life than she had been under the care of Breuer. Pappenheim’s feelings about psychoanalysis are perhaps best indicated by the fact that when the girls and young women in Pappenheim’s care manifested psychological disturbances.226 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault facial pains. sick people. she compared it to Catholic confession. founded Care for Women. she continued to suffer from hysterical symptoms and was suicidally depressed.”97 Pappenheim’s desire to care for the sick and poor. Pappenheim traveled extensively in order to intercept the sales of young girls intended for prostitution rings at train stations. . In 1882 Pappenheim was sent to a sanatorium in Kreuzlingen and later in Inzerdorf. and the manner in which this eased her own illnesses. and destroyed all of her documents dating prior to 1890. She wrote The Jewish Problem in Galicia addressing this concern. The multilingual Pappenheim.”99 Although she does not say whether psychoanalysis functioned in her own case as a benefi cial tool or as a weapon. a position that she kept for twelve years. Pappenheim also founded the Jüdischer Frauenbund (The Jewish Women’s Union).98 Later in life Pappenheim did not want to be known for her involvement in the invention of psychoanalysis. and continued to struggle with her health for many years. who could only speak in English. and then as a housemother in a Jewish orphanage for girls. Breuer noted that she had “looked after some poor. Breuer would confide in Freud that Pappenheim was “quite deranged. and became the fi rst president of the International Council of Women. A Woman’s Right. psychoanalysis by that time having become relatively common. keeping a house for them and for other girls at risk and illegitimate children in Neu-Isenberg. while writing her own feminist book on the sexual and economic exploitation of women. she refused to allow them to be psychoanalyzed. At the same time she worked as a journalist and pamphleteer. French. also translated Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women into German. Finally. In one of the rare references that she made to psychoanalysis.

not only for their own sakes but for the sakes of the less affluent and less sheltered women and girls who could benefit from their care. repressed as they were at the level of language and excluded from the political sphere. bodily language. she also sought to change the manner in which bourgeois girls and women were socialized. Pappenheim’s activism no longer reflected upon the effects of sexism on her own life and psyche—the frustrations of not being able to go to school like her brother. which were associated with her self: the political and social causes which Pappenheim made her own all involved women and Jewish women in particular. to conform to social and sexual expectations. however.102 Hysteria has occasionally been heralded as a form of feminist behavior. . to which hysteria has frequently been tied.Alternatives to Confession 227 On the other hand. Moreover. a rejection of patriarchy. passive victims of their own excessive corporeality. and objects of spectacle. and Pappenheim had to become addicted to morphine to combat this quite literal pain. and of needing to be restrained and polite even when restless. has been frequently theorized by feminists as a strategy through which verbally repressed bourgeois Victorian women “spoke” their discontent somatically. poverty as theatrical. she had discovered that social and political activism served better as a cure and a care of herself. to see crime as sin.101 This would seem to suggest that while chimney-sweeping her internal world had not helped to cure Pappenheim of hysteria.103 We should be cautious about applauding hysteria. while she was a tireless opponent of sexism. and a feminine language. for instance. but rather to struggle to overcome the misery and injustice to which they were raised to be blind. Pappenheim. and she sought to offer this alternative cure to other bourgeois women and girls. and illness as disgusting. and corporeal refusals (to eat. Pappenheim chose to engage in political activities. ] fit to be helpers. . she did advocate philanthropy and female independence. far from combating sexism. in particular. to swallow. retreating into illness. She actively sought out other women whom she could “make [ . as it was clearly at least as painful for hysterical women as it was for patriarchy. however. as she herself had been. gave up this typically feminine corporeal language and instead penned tracts in which she openly criticized the socialization and education as well as the economic and sexual restrictions and exploitations of women such as herself.”100 She not only educated the girls and young women in her house for an active and independent life. and to be available for sexual and domestic (re)production) in order to express the anger and discontent which they could not describe otherwise. including writing and translation. bored and angry—but instead struggled directly against sexism and other injustices in the public and political sphere. to speak. hysteria may also merely have confi rmed stereotypes of femininity: women as irrational. if Pappenheim did not advocate psychoanalysis. . and the case of Anna O. to move. as in Charcot’s theater. Despite the autobiographical nature of the political activities that she chose. unfit for the professions and politics. emotional. Hysteria.

unlike Foucault’s examples from Ancient Greece and Rome. is also done in the service of other women. In this article McWhorter describes the ways in which feminist practices. and it is an example of self care which. and feminist political activism in particular.” McWhorter turns to Foucault’s notion that philosophy is a practice of the self. we may add. which she calls “woman-affi rming practices. or as a Foucaultian care of the self. If Pappenheim’s life seems to attest to the manner in which political activism. By learning about the contingency of the ways in which she and other women experienced their bodies. and which. and her relation to the world. In “Practicing Practicing. and how this continued to be a transformation of her way of experiencing herself. McWhorter has argued that feminist political action as well as the reading and writing of feminist texts can function as a technology of self-transformation that serves the subject better than confessing to the self. in the way that technologies of the self should be ongoing processes and not. a story told about the self once and for all. writing feminist articles and plays and becoming directly involved in feminist political engagement cared for her self and healed her in a way that the confessional practices of the “talking cure” did not. Unfortunately. involves a group movement and the care of others as well as the self. Pappenheim helped many other women and girls and Jewish immigrants of both sexes as well. and a very quick collapsing of these normative claims into new feminist ontologies. can be a care of the self as well as of others. her body. in order to think about feminist political practices. As such. within the feminist movement it was soon not simply a matter of “inventing ourselves.228 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault As Pappenheim’s later life suggests.” at least initially functioned as transformative of her self. not because it was in any way inherently abject. as in narrative therapy.” but of establishing new feminist norms of what woman should be. As such. according to McWhorter. woman-affi rming practices quickly cease to be technologies of the self as Foucault describes them: . Ladelle McWhorter explores this claim explicitly. Reading feminist theory enabled McWhorter to realize that the kind of embodied subject which she had been socialized to be was abjected for political and economic reasons. McWhorter describes being able to come to experience her body in more empowering and positive ways. McWhorter goes on to explain how her feminist practice developed into eco-feminism. feminism functioned as a form of rational and joyful self-transformation for McWhorter. McWhorter then describes writing about this transformation of her sense of self. something which should be lived and which should transform one’s life. McWhorter notes. Reading and writing feminist theory and being actively engaged in feminist politics was a way for McWhorter to work on her self in order to transform her gendered and disciplined soul into a self which was self-fashioned and in a self-conscious process of becoming. At the same time. and this writing may in turn be read by other women and be equally a part of their self-transformations.

woman the subject and object of efforts to emancipate. and moreover does not recognize herself in or feel empowered or affi rmed by the self which aims to be recovered. woman the site of downtrodden virtue and righteous social change. What I fear is that within feminism. and this brings McWhorter to contrast rather than to compare feminist practices and Foucaultian technologies of the self. According to Sawicki.104 As a politics. Woman-affi rmation ceases to be self-affi rming for McWhorter at this point. to live it so. that is. to tell us who we do not have to be and to tell us how we came to think of ourselves as we do.Alternatives to Confession 229 At this point I become extremely uneasy. . which is that ultimately feminism is incompatible with her ongoing philosophical practice. and feminism in general. as she says.” but the result of this for McWhorter is ultimately that woman-affi rming practices and feminism in general come to be conservative processes of self-recovery rather than processes of self-creation. and have remained more optimistic than McWhorter regarding their staying power. it can be noted that if consciousness-raising works. or understand woman not as a category but as a “site of volatility. becoming. that we can “make it so. such a turn is in some sense inevitable. ] Feminism gradually came to have an identifiable center: Woman—woman the victim of oppression.” since she is herself indebted to the self-transformations which feminism equipped her to make. or. Feminism came to be about recognizing that Woman and nurturing her as she recovered herself and took her destined place as the catalyst for a general. What had perhaps started as a courageous journey into the unknown somehow got recast as a kind of enlightened return to origins. one would be simultaneously caring for others and oneself. McWhorter concludes by considering whether feminism could abandon the ontological and normative category of woman.”106 McWhorter expresses her hope that it can do so. Jana Sawicki argues for a non-disciplinary form of feminist consciousness-raising as a practice of self-care. without becoming a “mere verbal contortion” or “esoteric exercise in theory production. . [ .” without losing its ability to engage in politically effective ways for the sake of women as they now exist. Once more. That is. “The purpose of such consciousness-raising would not be to tell us who we are. “leads to awareness .105 Having fi rst described feminism as a practice of joyful and empowering self-fashioning. but rather to free us from certain ways of understanding ourselves. McWhorter thus comes to the conclusion which she acknowledges is “painful.”107 Other Foucaultian philosophers have also defended feminist practices as technologies of the self. In Disciplining Foucault. or differing.”108 Sawicki follows Sandra Bartky in arguing that feminist autobiographical practices. McWhorter is deeply suspicious of this move to self-recovery. many feminists have argued that feminism must assume a category of “woman. culturalwide moral revolution.

constructed sense of self which one had before. dominance and self-governance. as in McWhorter’s and Sawicki’s discussions of “woman-affi rming practices” and consciousnessraising. and in some cases may also involve caring for others. category confusion and a sense of moral ambiguity. rather . this more positive self-image tends to be pursued as the essential being which victimization and oppression has obscured. but they may also become disciplinary.112 autobiographical writing and image making or art production. autobiographical and self-reflective practices may function as selfgovernance and self-care. he always showed the policing process at work in it. Destabilization of identity is often the most profound effect of consciousness raising. What each of these examples shows is that autobiographical discourses are to be approached warily lest they fall into the ruses of confession. as he did give late interviews on homosexuality. the danger is that in destabilizing the patriarchally.”109 However. and yet they can be appropriated as liberating practices of self-care and care for others. and which consciousness-raising can reveal. are always co-existent and inextricably intertwined. and so it would be an exaggeration to say that Foucault himself sought silence as the sole alternative to confession. Michel Foucault inserted the practice of confession within a problematic of power. for his own failure to confess. In these cases. As with de Man.230 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault of oppression.”114 Defert’s defense of his partner’s silence clearly refers to Foucault’s account of confession as strategy of disciplinary power in the first volume of The History of Sexuality. victimization. one replaces it with a new feminist sense of self which is equally essentialized: one has thrown off patriarchy in order to reveal one’s “true self. but what they ought to be.” and one does not merely tell women what they do not need to be. and yet the goal is to cultivate oneself such that self-care predominates. or explanation. He never valued confession as such. In each of these cases. not the creation of a unified sense of self. Consciousness raising. following McWhorter. likewise. This work has been widely accepted as Foucault’s fi nal word on confession. Read as excuse.113 have also been suggested by feminist Foucaultians to be other feminist technologies of the self. and as the explanation for his own silence regarding his sexuality and illness. this work has had a posthumous life that can be compared to that of “Excuses (Confessions)” in the case of de Man. however.110 as well as women’s self-help groups. FOUCAULT’S SELF-WRITING In defending Foucault’s silence about his contraction of HIV. Foucault’s silence was not entire. As Foucault acknowledges. in which. technologies of discipline and technologies of self-care. Daniel Defert wrote: “In his work.111 therapy. silence seems to be offered as the only strategy which remained to the author for escaping discursive traps which he had himself so meticulously described.

Foucault stated. but not to tell us who he is. “More than one person. fragmentary. it is in the sense of hupomnêmata. rereading and writing philosophy to cure the anxieties of our souls with greater success than we may have found in confessional discourses. as with Plutarch’s hupomnêmata. If we are to read these as “autobiography” in a very loose sense. learning.116 Foucault himself suggested in an interview that each of his scholarly books could be read “as a fragment of an autobiography. subjectively selected “histories.” precisely because so subjectively selective (which.Alternatives to Confession 231 than alternative forms of discourse. In her introduction to this work. a means to work on himself and the themes which preoccupied him in a way which remained chosen. but that his major work is. our methodology of thinking and living.”118 Like the hupomnêmata. like the hupomnêmata of Plutarch given to Fundanus. particularly on madness. McWhorter says that she is not . We may cite fragments of Foucault’s books into our own hupomnêmata. These works are offered to his readers. while Derrida claims we may read all of de Man’s academic writings as autobiographical. and always “in process”—not. himself in the process of writing his books. doubtless like me. active. then again. therefore. or non-confessional manners of speaking about his sexuality. has been frequently noted. medical institutionalization. in “Self Writing. ] someone who is a writer is not simply doing his work in his books. One description of how Foucault’s writings can be used by others as hupomnêmata or as a practice of self-care occurs in Ladelle McWhorter’s book Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization. then. the revelation of a true or pre-existing self. our aesthetics of self. but an always unfinished constitution of a self through citation and reasoned thought. so-called sexual perversion).” which requires at least as complex a reading as Derrida has provided in the case of de Man.115 Moreover. .” of a form of self-writing that constitutes the subject through rationally chosen and fragmentary citation of the historically-given or déjà-dit (as opposed to revelations of the supposedly non-dit). desire in restraint. who he “is.” but rather brings together fragments of others’ voices on the subject.” and Foucault’s reflections on them according to themes—themes which held a certain resonance with Foucault’s own experiences (of madness. but are organized collections of citations chosen from archives. as attempts to work on and change our lives and selves. On similar lines. . and his meditations on them. nor really to tell us about history either—that they are not very good books of “history. Foucault would later write. writes in order to have no face. and many historians have “corrected” Foucault’s writings. Such an explanation can be provided by Foucault’s notion.”117 In The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault does not try to reveal his true face. all histories are). “I believe that [ .119 Rather. reading. Foucault’s books are not intimate journals in which he speaks of himself. in the end. these are offered as philosophical resources that may be used as part of our own philosophical and political thought. In his studies of subjects which were not therefore disinterested.

much as. ] At the level of the individual. what interests McWhorter about Foucault is: the question of how it has been able to push me in the directions I have gone both philosophically and politically. critique. ] operate as a discipline. in church. an exercise of thinking that transforms its reader. I read Foucault’s The History of Sexuality in its entirety. being submitted to heterosexist discipline at school. . how they interfere with heterosexist business as usual. and how did this all come about? I was able to let go of that still lingering belief that. I was excited. from a homosexual perspective. I was overjoyed. stimulate. heterosexuality was superior . 1983.232 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault interested in debating “the logic of [Foucault’s] argumentation or the accuracy of his reportage or even of the works’ political utility or danger. as an askesis. I am not so interested. although what they have to say is crucial to my study. enliven.” feminism is argued to have worked for a while. the question of how that work has been able to excite. and the ways in which Foucault’s History of Sexuality: An Introduction. . and empower me for the greater part of my adult life. and in medical and psychiatric institutions. such as: Why does it work that way. . instead. in the later “Practicing Practicing. how they transform the reader’s world. at home. because I had believed there was no way to be a homosexual except to be totally objectified. resonated with her own life and gave her the tools to understand. .122 And later: Through years of personal experience I already knew that Foucault’s descriptions of how sexuality and sexual subjectivity and classification actually worked were accurate. beginning with a description of growing up queer in a small town in Alabama in the 1970s. I’m interested in how those works operate to open possibilities. on January 7. then. I’m interested in how the works [ . McWhorter’s book is autobiographical. in what his works have to say.121 McWhorter’s book is in part a description of how reading Foucault over fi fteen years has been a continual practice of transforming her life. after all.” 120 Rather. but his genealogy gave or at least suggested answers to the questions that that knowledge had generated. I was astonished. At the level of the political situation. and change it: Then. But Foucault’s book proved me wrong. I am most interested in what they tend to do [ . which McWhorter read as a young adult. I had believed it was impossible to speak as a homosexual. Never have I been so happy with a book between my hands. and for the fi rst time in my life I heard something I believed it was impossible to hear: the articulation of a homosexual point of view.

” More specifically.” but rather that on a personal level. in terms of transforming her own life. and not moral or scientific fact. Even though for Foucault such writings are involved in an aesthetics of the self. With the advent of those new abilities. and thus that through practice she could transform that self understanding into a positive and self-chosen identification as queer. as for the Stoics and for Foucault. as a further practice of self-transformation for the author and. as an indication not that Foucault is “right” or that his arguments are “logical” or that his historical narratives are “accurate. is a social construct. and perhaps most importantly her sexuality. record them. and offer something back to them. For McWhorter. McWhorter’s book on Foucault is far more explicitly autobiographical than any of Foucault’s “fragments of an autobiography. its power and prestige rest solely on its embeddedness within the classification system that invents it. Heterosexuality.Alternatives to Confession 233 in some organic or natural way to homosexuality. like homosexuality. Although McWhorter is describing moments from her own life. but is rather describing the ways in which she became a certain kind of subject and the ways that she has transformed that subject through philosophy. but that this classificatory system in which sex is identity was not essential. McWhorter’s writing is no more confessional than Foucault’s. as books of life that can be read as part of a reader’s practices of self-care.”124 Foucault’s last five books showed McWhorter how her sexuality had come to be her identity through discipline. it is a way of living.” Nevertheless. I was able to maintain.” or even that they are politically “useful.” and McWhorter acknowledges that the idea of writing autobiographically in order to present Foucault’s philosophy is “a little bizarre”125 given Foucault’s own claims to “write in order to have no face. reading Foucault’s books “work. reflect on what they say. the grip of a crushing form of power was gradually loosening around me. she is not confessing to or discovering or revealing a pre-given or essential self in these pages. Foucault’s last writings—the histories of sexuality and the lectures . second. it is crucial that they do not turn inwards or assume any pre-existing interior self to turn in upon. describing her reading of Foucault and how it has resonated with and changed her life. but listen to others. the ongoing practice of reading and re-reading Foucault’s work over fi fteen years enabled McWhorter to find ways to live as a homosexual “fully and completely” even while refusing to be a homosexual “essentially. they work as hupomnêmata.123 As she describes it. “philosophy is not primarily a body of knowledge or a collection of skills. This non-confessional autobiography is written for two reasons: fi rst.”126 Reading Foucault. reading Foucault enabled McWhorter to realize that the denigrating and dehumanizing ways in which her self-understanding as homosexual had been constructed were contingent and political. is a practicing of philosophy as a way of life and of self-care. More specifically. respond to them. read them. and later writing about Foucault. her feelings and thoughts.

may be read as livres de vie or arts of the self which nevertheless turn outwards towards others. Such a reading is used by Daniel Defert to explain his lover’s silence with respect to his cause of death. despite his decision to say nothing. read as explanation for Foucault’s own silence. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. By looking at what Foucault goes on to say about Rivière. do you think I have worked like that all those years to say the same thing and not to be changed?’”127 Taking up these writings and this understanding of philosophy.234 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault from that period. other autobiographical feminist practices such as consciousness-raising and image-making. McWhorter’s philosophical practices are also ways in which the writer re-writes and transforms herself through non-confessional autobiography. For Foucault. and of histories. make sense of his claim that all of his writings are nevertheless autobiographical by examining his interest in ancient practices of self-care and self-governance. I have suggested that Foucault did after all look for possible textual strategies for self-writing as act rather than subjection. it has been argued that the writing of philosophy. Foucault thus replies to such critiques: “‘Well. and seems to be confi rmed by Foucault’s explanation of his refusal to analyze the memoir of Pierre Rivière. and about the memoir of Herculine Barbin. as seen in the example . and particularly in the writing of hupomnêmata. constituting a self through responses to the given world and to other people. Drawing on Foucault’s brief discussion of this ancient genre. as for McWhorter. and hence the aim is not to stay the same or consistent from one to another. however. seems to suggest that withdrawal from all self-reflective discourse is a possible means (and the only possible means) to avoid the workings of disciplinary power and the policing effects of subjectification. acts which may maintain an indefi nition of identity and thus keep open the possibility of freedom. something which may nevertheless remain rooted in personal experience but does more than reflect on its particularity. the analysis of confession and of humpomnêmata—arguably tell us that things get better for ourselves when we stop confessing to those selves and start doing something which will change those selves and which we may offer to others instead. One can. however. As Foucaultian feminists have argued. It remains. but at the same time reflects a curiously simple and even un-Foucaultian understanding of the workings of power. philosophy is a manner of changing oneself through the reading and writing of books. whether this alternative be direct political engagement or the writing and speaking of something other than confessions. since these accusations missed the point of philosophy for him. Foucault laughed at accusations that there were inconsistencies between one book he had written and another. that despite some candid interviews Foucault undertook no such directly self-referential writings himself. rather than through revelations of what one thinks is hidden within one and one’s very own secret and true self. as in Foucault’s own works and in the feminist philosophical and autobiographical practices of authors such as Ladelle McWhorter.

the advantage that Foucault would have seen in such practices is that they are active as well as fragmented or forever incomplete. . As with Foucault’s praise for the memoirs of Rivière and Barbin. constituting a subject which is likewise free and in process or undefi ned. like testimony. run the risk of sliding into the workings of discipline with which they are always intertwined.Alternatives to Confession 235 of Artemisia Gentileschi. and indeed like all autobiographical practices and technologies of self-care. even if they. may function as technologies of the self.

Figures .

Figures 237 Figure 1 Artemisia Gentileschi. 1610. Schloss Weissenstein. . Pommersfelden. Susanna and the Elders.

etching and engraving. Susanna and the Elders. Board of Trustees.238 Figures Figure 2 Annibale Carracci. Washington D. . National Gallery of Art. 1590.C. c.

. Berlin-Dahlem. 1647.Figures 239 Figure 3 Rembrandt. Gemäldegalerie. Preussicher Kulturbesitz. Staatliche Museen. Susanna and the Elders.

Munich. Susanna and the Elders. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. 1636–40.240 Figures Figure 4 Peter Paul Rubens. Alte Pinakothek. .

Cambridge. Tarquin and Lucretia. . Fitzwilliam Museum. 1568–71.Figures 241 Figure 5 Titian.

17th Century. Rome Academia Nazionale di San Luca. Tarquin and Lucretia. .242 Figures Figure 6 Giovanni Biliverti.

Genova. Palazzo Cattaneo-Adorno.Figures 243 Figure 7 Artemisia Gentileschi. . 1621. Lucretia.

. Judith Beheading Holofernes.244 Figures Figure 8 Artemisia Gentileschi. Museo di Capodimonte. 1612–13. Naples.

Judith Beheading Holofernes.Figures 245 Figure 9 Caravaggio. 1598–99. . Rome. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. Palazzo Barberini.

Kensington Palace. 1630.246 Figures Figure 10 Artemisia Gentileschi. . Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. London.

Figures 247 Figure 11 Artemisia Gentileschi. . The Burghley House Collection. 1622. England. Susanna and the Elders. Stamford.

Restored. 1998.248 Figures Figure 12 Kathleen Gilje. . Susanna and the Elders.

Figures 249 Figure 13 Kathleen Gilje. . X-Ray. Susanna and the Elders. 1998. Restored.

this desire has already exceeded the capacities of others to hear. ] and the stories I want to tell you will light up part of my life. But as Winterson’s example also shows.0 to which virtual psychoanalyst patients can also talk. Jeanette Winterson writes: There’s a booth in Grand Central Station where you can go and record your life. . Phil urges his television spectators to post . but to speaking to virtual others. Forty minutes is yours. It tapes.Conclusion In Lighthousekeeping. It’s the modern-day confessional—no priest. in which confession is no longer necessarily a speech act which serves as an expression of guilt over what one has done. Dr.1 Winterson describes what is perhaps indeed the modern-day confessional experience. 2 Similarly. What you were. calling you home? We’re told not to privilege one story above another. and so we resort not only to paying others to listen. digitally saved for the future. maybe all stories are worth hearing. So what would you say in those forty minutes—what would be your death-bed decisions? What of your life will sink under the waves. to the writing of memoirs and eventually to speaking to machines: for the train station confessional booth is but one of many strange inventions of the second half of the twentieth century. and leave the rest in darkness. and the later software program DEPRESSION 2. You don’t need to know everything. but not all stories are worth telling [ . but which more importantly reflects a desire to tell another who one is. Well. and what will be like the lighthouse. The stories themselves make the meaning. All the stories must be told. Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester describe ELIZA. just your voice in the silence. inventions which draw on technology to receive the flood of confessional discourse which characterizes this age and which human ears can no longer accommodate. . You talk. a conversational computer programmed by a psychoanalyst to simulate the therapeutic confessor. There is no everything. maybe that’s true.

discursively fi xing those confessions as the place where we live. in turn. What we confess to is a momentous choice. While in our confessional age we are urged to tell everything—perhaps by those who want. in Winterson’s metaphor. Winterson indicates. or are worth becoming who we are. Apology’s hotline.0. Here we see a very simplified notion of a talking cure. even to a “virtual other. wearing a false beard . Patients called in not only to apologize. For instance. they could only leave messages on a tape recorder. confessants did not speak to a human being when they called Mr. and notably not to their victims. Confessions. Apology’s tape recorder apparently hoped to be exculpated of their crimes by talking alone. and by the popularity of programs such as DEPRESSION 2. Surely the train station confessional booth.” is understood as therapeutic. no possibility of transference and counter-transference in which neuroses can be worked through. Peter Brooks writes of the strange case of “Mr. Apology’s original incentive was to create an exhibit using the material he gathered. Moreover. suggesting that they become inscribed on our very bodies. The stories we tell in confession “make the meaning” of our lives and our selves. Winterson implies. Even if we have faith in the curative powers of confession as it occurs. Apology’s phone line will fail as therapeutic cures. and hence it is important. “ a tape recorder or a website “bulletin board.”3 As with the confessional booth that Winterson describes. as in the case of a woman testifying to childhood sexual abuse. for instance.” a man who used posters in Manhattan to advertise a confessional-hotline. Along similar lines. DEPRESSION 2. ELIZA. and Mr. And yet Appignanesi and Forrester describe the strange dependence which “patients” developed with their computers. to disappear into the darkness. and not only because. they will be like the lighthouse calling us home. a means of catharsis or of externalizing painful or shameful histories. our “death bed decisions. The posters read: “Get Your Misdeeds off Your Chest! Call APOLOGY (212) 255–2748. criminals who called Mr. Phil’s bulletin board. do not allow memories to sink under the waves. they will discursively fi x rather than abreact memories. That we believe in such a talking cure is attested to by the fact that Mr. such that talking alone.Conclusion 251 their confessions on his on-line bulletin board as other depersonalized and technologically-mediated confessional cures. Apology.0. to tell everything—Winterson argues that not all stories are worth being told. Dr.” for these confessions defi ne who we are or are productive of our subjectivity. almost as if they were speaking to human beings. in psychoanalysis. and yet what Winterson’s brief account of the confessional booth at Grand Central Station also suggests is that rather than confessions getting things off our chests. but to describe their victimization by others. Apology received numerous calls. to choose the stories we tell carefully because we will have to live in them. in these technologically-mediated examples it would seem that there is no relation with another. following Foucault and Winterson. while Mr.

in other cases. but also the confessional desire to hear truthful. “You don’t need to know everything. As was argued in Chapter Two. as this case alarmingly indicates. identity-fi xing confidences from others. Apology feared that Jim would kill his mother just to prove that he had told the truth about who he was to the confessor with whom he had formed an intense psychological bond. he kept the phone line open after the exhibit ended and eventually began responding to calls. but also their tendency to reveal the truth of desires produced between confessor and confessant rather than historical facts. I have also wanted to follow philosophers such as Lévinas and Derrida in order to say that the question of the other. Now Mr. Apology phoned Jim. as was seen in Chapter Four. Here we see not only the inclination of confessions to implicate their listeners. is not so easily set aside. it nevertheless may not always be enough to say: “You do not need to know everything. despite the fact that. like the confessional booth in Grand Central Station. Winterson and Foucault would both dismiss the other’s demand to know everything. Apology to bring proof of his mother’s death. The confessional phoneline. we should be careful what we say. to return to Winterson once more. On one occasion when Mr. in a manner which Brooks describes as a transferential bond. the phone was picked up by a woman claiming to be the alleged matricide’s mother. and yet even if in many cases our desires to confess exceed the capacities of others to hear. was meant to be unidirectional and anonymous.4 Accused of having lied about killing his mother. In the present. Apology returned Jim’s calls more than once. and yet they have a way of becoming true of the subject. confessions. stating. Mr. For this reason I have problematized not only the confessional desire to speak the truth of the self. even making and breaking plans to meet him in person.252 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault to remain anonymous to the criminals whose confessions he exploited. the other’s desire to hear our confessions may also infringe upon our wishes to remain silent. In particular. far from being particularly authentic instances of truth-telling.” This is somewhat strange in the context of speaking to a tape recorder in a train station box. as I have argued. this ethical demand is itself a result of confessional discipline which in turn aims to discipline the speaker. because their interest lies primarily with the pernicious effects of confession upon the speaking subject.” Autonomy. Along these lines Winterson suggests that we may resist the other’s demand that we confess. including her demand to hear my confessions. he received messages to respond to the calls of a man named Jim who claimed to have murdered his mother. Although I have followed these arguments to a point. when I harm the other in my failure to grant her the recognition which she requires through my confession. but Mr. Apology found himself solicited to respond to the calls and eventually complying to this demand. The confessor and confessant became increasingly dependent and complicit in this case. like . As such. Jim promised Mr. may in fact tend towards untruth. however.

and hence the possibility of leaving it behind. I have therefore tried to consider not only the contingency and the problems with confession. Winterson writes: “A beginning. 5 It was seen that Judith Butler argues against the practice of narrative therapy. Pew. child? One that begins again.Conclusion 253 confession. There is no continuous narrative. and as such I have argued that the practices which I cultivate to overcome discipline.” Winterson argues not only for a silence which resists confession. as quiet as light. a middle and an end is the proper way to tell a story. . must be allowed to change with each telling. . the “continuous narrative of existence is a lie. Pew. to be on-going productions of the self as works of art. That’s the story of life. or. [ . in Foucault’s terms. . There’s no such thing in all the world. [ . Finally. very quietly. as she says later. It was seen that Winterson’s novel suggests that we should be careful about what we say. . and the stories we ask others to tell. On what? On how I tell it. ] Tell me a story. For Butler. I have wanted to consider ways of speaking of the self which may respond to my own and the other’s needs to tell and to hear my story. ways which do not discursively fi x the speaker’s identity. What story? The story of what happened next. What story. Words are the part of silence that can be spoken. can only occur with others and by taking their disciplined needs and their capacities for freedom into account. What kind of story. is relational. Similarly. in which patients and analysts construct a coherent story of the patient’s life once and for all. ] Tell me a story. Silver. But I have difficulty with that method” for. As a happy ending? As an ending. but she also writes: “Turn down the daily noise and at fi rst there is the relief of silence. But is it the story of my life? Only if you tell it. And then. including the disciplinary habit of confession. child? A story with a happy ending. but also the demands of the other and the possibilities of silence. but for new ways of speaking which are not confessional. meaning returns. That depends. . the stories we tell. which she explores through the stories told by the lighthousekeeper Pew and his adopted daughter Silver: Tell me a story.

”7 . which is not only that we need not tell all stories. I will simply recall what Pew teaches Silver. and the rest is dark.”6 As an ending to this work. never fi nished. There was an ending—there always is—but the story went on past the ending—it always does. and like most stories in the world. or that even in the lighthouse there can be a space of dark.254 The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault there are lit up moments. but that the stories that we do tell can be “a long story.

Mars-Avril 2007: 8. 89. edited by Colin Gordon. italics in the original.” Magazine Littéraire. Ibid. 2004: 205. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Peter Brown. Westport. Discussed in “Entretien avec Philippe Lejeune: Une pratique d’avant-garde. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. Their Eyes Were Watching God. J. 1972–1977. and it no longer seemed fruitful to try to analyze one without the other. New York: Picador. New York and Middlesex: Pelican. Michel Foucault. 1977: xiii.. 2. Belgium: E. The Philosopher’s Autobiography: A Qualitative Study. Brill. 13. ]”: “Perhaps the most important realization of all was that this institution continued to perform. New York: Pantheon. 2003: 112 7.. 1974: 68. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Leiden. 14. Ibid. “The Confession of the Self. Sigmund Freud and Joseph Breuer.Notes NOTES TO THE INTRODUCTION 1.” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. Georges Gusdorf. Erik Berggren. Tentler found in the case of medieval and Renaissance confession that “The results were not quite so simple [ . Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. 1991. that the cure of anxiety could not be examined separately. Paris: Odile Jacob. Shlomit Schuster. 79. 17. 9. Foucault. Michel Foucault. ed. “Nietzsche. 16. as it had throughout its long and varied history. 10. Studies on Hysteria. 1967: 165. Zora Neale Hurston. .” Thomas Tentler. 11. Ibid. 5. Ibid. : Lectures at the Collège de France: 1974–1975. 8. Cited in Peter Brooks. . 87. 15. Les écritures de moi. Ibid. Sacramental confession was designed to cause guilt as well as cure guilt. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it became apparent that discipline could not be ignored. 3. The Psychology of Confession. 1998: 10. 2000: 23–4. Abnormal. New York: 1980. CT: Praeger. . 1975: 3. Pantheon Books. the function of discipline or social control.. Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature. Paul Rabinow. 184. Genealogy. 194–228. New York: Perennial Classics... History. 4. 6.” The Foucault Reader. 12. 213. pp. 89. 1984: 78. Ibid.

Alan Peterson and Bryan S. 87–88. 1976: 82–3. 29. while Foucault uses the term “ethical” to refer to relations to the self. Turner. dealt with confession in the Christian period. Liz Eckermann.. Foucault..” Michel Foucault: Politics. Lawrence D. “Subjectivity and Truth. Foucault. 39. 31. “Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers. Notes Ibid. Foucault claims that the second volume of The History of Sexuality. 41. 40. Foucault. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Ibid. La volonté de savoir. 26.256 18. 21. or Les aveux de la chair. Ibid. Ibid. Health. 1997: 125–6. The lecture. Ibid. C. Ibid. 181–182. Les aveux de la chair (The Confessions of the Flesh). Colorado: Westview Press. dealing with the Christian period.” The Politics of Truth. 176. . This work never appeared. however. 177.. Philosophy. Ibid. 1997: 173. Laches.. History. Plato. Paris: Gallimard. and Medicine. 2000: 40. The fourth volume of The History of Sexuality which Foucault did write. and Gendered Subjectivities: The Case of Voluntary Self-Starvation. 88. Prado.” 76. Kritzman ed. Ibid. New York: Pantheon. “The Masked Philosopher.” Foucault. would be called La chair et le corps. 1997: 151–172. 24. 30. I will want to reserve this term primarily for relations with others. It is in this sense that I think that Foucault neglects to consider confession in terms of ethics. Ibid. 23. Foucault. which was to deal with the Christian period. 20. Ibid.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings: 1972–1977. “Christianity and Confession”: 199. “Subjectivity and Truth. but Foucault had the manuscript destroyed when he died. As I shall argue below. Foucault. 201a. or at least to include both relations with others and to the self. Foucault. 33. 90. Foucault. 1988: 323–330. 19. Foucault’s manuscript. however. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). 1972: 83. In La volonté de savoir. 28. New York and London: Routledge. 36. G. “Christianity and Confession. “What is Enlightenment?. 32. was destroyed at Foucault’s request at the time of his death. “Foucault. Foucault. ed. “Subjectivity and Truth.” discussed below. NOTES TO CHAPTER 1 1. Colin Gordon. despite his late so-called ethical writings. 1977–1984..” 179. may give an impression of the content of this lost work. 22. 38. See Cressida Heyes. 35. eds. Starting with Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy. 37.. “Nietzsche. Foucault. and the second volume of the History deals instead with Ancient Greece. 2006. 27. 25. “Two Lectures. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings. Bolder. Embodiment. 34.” The Politics of Truth.” Hypatia 21:2.” The Politics of Truth. London and New York: Routledge. Confessions of the Flesh. Genealogy. 82.

. Ibid. 10. 229. New York: New Press. Ibid. Foucault. “Subjectivity and Truth.” 186–7. 13. Mortimer. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). 30. Foucault. .” The Letters of Abelard and Heloïse. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 25. Seneca. when our prayers should be purer. ] Men call me chaste. 23. 202. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 5. 29. Ibid. bringing with them awakened longings and fantasies which will not let me sleep. 26. Cited in Foucault. 10. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. Edited by Paul Rabinow. 1977: 5. “Subjectivity and Truth. 3. Foucault. Second Conference of Abbot Moses.” 212–13. 227. 19. “on Anger.. the pleasures of lovers which we shared have been too sweet—they can never displease me.” cited in Foucault. edited by Philip Schaft and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids. in vol. 228. 12. 9. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Ibid. 1974: 133. 1939: 1.” Dits et écrits II: Paris: Gallimard. “Christianity and Confession. and can scarcely be banished from my thoughts. Wherever I turn they are always there before my eyes. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). 20. Ambrose. cited in Tentler. 27. Foucault. This article is translated as “Self Writing” in The Essential Works of Foucault.. 1955). Tentler. “Subjectivity and Truth. II. Ibid. “Christianity and Confession. though virtue belongs not to the body but to the soul. Foucault. Foucault. “Christianity and Confession. Heloïse writes: “In my case.” The Politics of Truth. Mortimer. Ibid.” 223–4. Ibid. 4.. Volume 1: Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature. 8.” 207. 2. 16. 5. The Origins of Private Penance in the Western Church. MI: Eerdmans. “L’écriture de soi.” The Politics of Truth. 17. Cited in Foucault. 2000: 91. Foucault. 24. cited in Brooks. .. 15. John Cassian. Mortimer. 1980: 2.” 224. 28. 1997: 184. II of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. lewd visions of those pleasures take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers [ . 6. they do not know the hypocrite that I am. chapter II. 95. Princeton: Princeton University Press. C. Eusebius. Historia Ecclesiastica 5:28. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. New York: Penguin. Renaissance Self-fashioning from More to Shakespeare. 14. 2001: 1237. Oxford: Clarendon Press. “Christianity and Confession. 7. 18. 21. nt 312.. Tentler. Ibid. 213. 1997: 201. Ibid. 11. “Christianity and Confession. 214... “Christianity and Confession. Even during the celebration of mass. They consider purity of the fl esh a virtue. The Origins of Private Penance in the Western Church. 312–13. Reverend R. 214. The Origins of Private Penance in the Western Church. 1997: 207–22. 4. De poenitentia. 22. 1. Stephen Greenblatt.Notes 257 2.” 194–5.” 222–3. Ibid.

Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist. Augustine.. “People know what they do. 33. 45.” 230–1.C. 41. 35. however. they frequently know why they do what they do. 42. While this is somewhat different from what I am arguing. 37. 1983: 187. 130. 1602. 1972: 30. 2003: 8–9. she does. Religion and Society in the Age of Saint Augustine. See The Philosopher’s “I”: Autobiography and the Search for the Self. Ibid.. Notre Dame. Foucault. 48. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Taylor. 47. My translation of Foucault: “À propos de la généalogie de l’éthique: un aperçu du travail en cours. 1438. Phillip Cary. 38. Augustine’s Teaching on Divine Power and Human Freedom.: The Catholic University of America Press. New York: Vintage. Ann Hartle. Ibid. Augustine and Modernity. 122–3. 14. 138. Foucault. See Augustine Confessions. 34. Michael Hanby. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. but what they don’t know is what what they do does. 10. 39. D. Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist. see Gerald Bonner. 55. Renaissance Self-Fashioning From More to Shakespeare: 2. Phillip Cary. J. 1997: xxxv. Freedom and Necessity: St. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. 21. cited in Hanby: 9... 1208. Ibid. Augustine and Modernity. 1382. The Modern Self in Rousseau’s Confessions: A Reply to Augustine. 20. London and New York: Routledge. 1983: 14. Ibid. See Charles Taylor Sources of the Self. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 20. quoted in Peter Brown.. 36. 32. 2000: 123. “Christianity and Confession. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 51. 56. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 52. Ibid. 993–996.258 Notes 31.. point out the interesting manner in which the structure of Augustine’s Confessions echoes his philosophical and theological understanding of the way in which humans have access to truth and God. Ibid. As will be argued below. involving an effort to transform the self and not merely to affi rm it as it is. sermon 169. . Freedom and Necessity. Washington. 2000: 9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. London: Faber and Faber. 40. the case of psychoanalysis as a modern confessional practice might be more complicated. 1989. 25. Ibid. 4.” Dits et écrits II: 1213–1214. 2006: 55–62. or retrospection on the past followed by introspection upon Augustine’s present spiritual concerns. 2007: 3–13. 54. and Stephen Menn Descartes and Augustine. Bonner. 1998. 50. Dits et écrits II. Rather than an inwards and up movement. and cited in Stephen Greenblatt. 49. 44. 555. 53. 46. 1624. 1433. For a discussion of Augustine’s changing views on human freedom. Ibid. Albany: State University of New York Press.” Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Hanby. As Foucault said. Lenore Wright discusses a backwards and inwards move in Augustine’s Confessions. Sources of the Self. 43. Ibid.

” in Augustine and Postmodernism: Confessions and Circumfession. 89.. Ibid. Confession in the Novel: Bhaktin’s Author Revisited. 98. Confessions. Brown.. Augustine.. 259 86. Ibid. Derrida. My italics. 21. Ibid. 27.” 81–2. 25–6.. 76. 32. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. in Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. Ibid. Peter Brown. 58. 198. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography: 181. 219. 76. Henry Chadwick. 1998: ix. 71. 198. Ibid. Scanlon... 69. 94. 67. 2005: 218. 6. O’Donnell. 62. 49. Henry Chadwick.” Without Alibi. Ibid. 75. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. 101. 73. 91.. 92. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid... 214.. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. also cited the conversion tales of martyrs. as precedents to Augustine’s “autobiography”: 159. 199.Notes 57. 197. 85. 84. 199–200. Augustine. trans. 81. 83. 83. Ibid. 96. 3. “Augustine’s Unconfessions.. Augustine. 68. 29. eds. Ibid. 78. 200. James J. Confessions. Brown. Ibid. 63. Ibid. 64. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.. 80. 99. Confessions. 59. Ibid. “Introduction” to Augustine’s Confessions. 88.. Ibid. Ibid. .. 44. 26. 79. “Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink (2).: 173. 145. Ibid. John D.. 60. 87. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1967: 165. Ibid. 6. 95... Augustine of Hippo: A Biography.. “Typewriter Ribbon. 70.. Augustine... 66. xv-xvi. Ibid. 82. Les Smith. Caputo and Michael J. xiii. Ibid. 72. “overshadowed by death” and with death as their climax. Confessions. 74. 26. xxiii. 97.. 93. Augustine.. 27–8. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 28. 21. 89. Derrida. Ibid.. Confessions. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press... 65. Augustine. Confessions. 5. 45. 2002: 86 Augustine. Ibid. 90. Confessions. 77. Ibid. 1996: 33. 27. 61. 100. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation.. 2006: 190–1. 110. 1975. Ibid.” in Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages.. 108. 124. 114. See Tentler. Mortimer.” “The Infi nite Task of Confession.” Repentance in Christian Theology. Collegeville. Allen Frantzen. 115. “The Infi nite Task of Confession. 12. The Irish Penitentials. 116. 1982: 23–56. Mortimer and others have refuted Galtier’s position. 11. Rittgers. see Rob Meens. 117. 19. 128. Bernasconi. Ronald K.. 119. Ibid. 117 ff. Paul Galtier. 14. 103. 111. eds. 25. 127. For another study of how rarely medieval subjects confessed. For this and similar “didactic jingles” used as aide-mémoires for priests and penitents alike. 145. Mark Boda and Gordon Smith. 107.: 84. 118. Bernasconi writes that “the tide of diminishing penances” was “a tendency governed by the desire to encourage confession. 132. See also John T.” 85. Ibid. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. Robert Bernasconi. “Poor Sinning Folk”: Confession and Conscience in Counter-Reformation Germany. 132. If we examine the incidents of confession in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Gamer. Tentler. 112. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. vol. 141–2. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 6 (1988)”: 80. Ibid. “Private Confession in the German Reformation. Augustine. York. 136. “Frequency and Nature of Early Medieval Penance. The Psychology of Confession. 109 ff.: 87. The Origins of Private Penance in the Western Church. 1996: 7. Mortimer.: 78. 119. Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 126. vol. 134. Ibid. The Origins of Private Penance in the Western Church. 122. 109. 9. 1984: 215. Ibid. 123. 4. Tentler. The Birth of Purgatory.260 Notes 102. Confessions. Ibid. Ibid. these demeanors within the confessional come to seem less unlikely. 131. . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. Minnesota: Liturgical Press. see page 149 for repeated examples.” Anglo Saxon England. Ibid. McNeill and Helena M. 4. Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A translation of the principal libri poenitentiales and selections from related documents. 106. Minnis.. 11. 133. New York: Octagon Books. 1965: 29. 11. 120. L’Église et la rémission des péchées. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Le Goff. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 104. “The Infi nite Task of Confession: A Contribution to the History of Ethics. 1998: 35–55. “The tradition of penitentials in Anglo-Saxon England. United Kingdom: York Medieval Press. 125. Tentler. Meyers. Peter Briller and A. 105. 26–7. 171. Ibid. “The Infi nite Task of Confession. 75. 10. 62. 145..” 84. 129. Tentler. eds. Paris: 1932. 130. 135. Berggren. Ludwig Bieler. see Tentler.” 85.” Acta Institutionis Philosophiae et Aestheticae. See Bernasconi. J. 113. Ibid. Tentler. Cited in Tentler. ed. 121.

Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. and parishioners would thus have been put off by the expense of confessing.” 56.Notes 261 137. Peter Briller.: 97–8.” 86. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. Tentler. “The Infi nite Task of Confession. 93. Bernasconi. “Poor Sinning Folk. 148. “Gendered Souls in Sexed Bodies: The Male Construction of Female Sexuality in Some Medieval Confessors’ Manuals. 141. 92. and the expectation of it.” 91. “The Infi nite Task of Confession.” Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages: 63–77. After 1215. Ibid. Tentler.” Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages: 79–93. 151. Tentler. 164. Tentler. 138. circumstantial evidence is insuffi cient to convict a suspect in the absence of a confession. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. The Justinian’s Digest of Roman law had been rediscovered in 1070. and Foucault. Troubling Confessions. 159. Henry Charles Lea. Jacqueline Murray. thus suggesting that the frequency of confession. 160. 2006: 101. See Brooks. 161. 149. . Little. 147. 139. A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church. 145. 153. and thus confessions were necessary for many convictions. 1984: 216.” for an account of the invention of the confessional. “Confession in the Middle Ages: An Introduction. Ibid. was not so much lower before the legislation of 1215 than after. of which the Decree of 1215 is an important signpost rather than cause. 78. 59. II.. 150. 143. 155. 152. Troubling Confessions. 60 ff. Gerson. Le Goff. Cited in Tentler. Ibid. It is in the shadow of this history that modern law has developed the right of suspects to not bear witness against themselves. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 146. Ibid. See Bernasconi. La volonté de savoir.” Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages: 15. Alexander Murray. the problems and scandals which it was intended to resolve and to which it gave rise. Brooks. Foucault. Ibid. 91–2. The Birth of Purgatory.: 91–3. De Confessione mollitiei. 157. Confession and Resistance: Defi ning the Self in Late Medieval England. Philadelphia: Lea. Notre Dame. 163. Meyers. Du Pin. 4.: 96. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 1896. Ibid. Tentler points to one cleric who complained even in the twelfth century that the laity “barely confessed once a year” (70). “Counselling in Medieval Confession. Ch. Meyers.: 94. 165. 82 ff. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. While authors such as Foucault and Le Goff think there would have been a dramatic increase in confessions. 142. 144. La volonté de savoir. 453–455. 158. Katherine C. 162. 81. “Poor Sinning Folk. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tentler is more cautious and tends to see a gradual rise in the importance of confession. 154. 140. many Christians would still only have confessed the required one time per year. In it. largely because an “alms” or Beichtgeld was customarily expected of the penitent. 156.

” Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests. 181. 1947: 190. Eduard Cunitz. 9. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press: 1999: 28. 177. 188. 83–7. 172. Consolatio theologiae. 114. Issued by Order of Pius V. cit. 2. Berggren.. 158. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 2001. 8. McHugh and C. Ladelle McWhorter. Matthew of Cracow. Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization. 167. tr. Ibid. Huch. 181. and Eduard Reus.. Ionnais Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia. 171. cited in Berggren. 80–81. 183. 219–221. 175. 182. 195–8. see Julie Ann Smith. See “Private Confession in the German Reformation. Ibid. Foucault. 176. 170. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation.. 469.” 65. 7. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 192. letter to Farel (May 1540). 8. 2. Ibid. Minnesota: Liturgical Press. Meyers. op. ed. Meyers. This is Antonius de Butrio’s suggestion. 8–9. 180. Opera. For a study of confession in nunneries. 194.. Rittgers. “Private Confession in the German Reformation. New York: Vintage. Ibid. 186. 3. Tentler. Mark Boda and Gordon Smith. cited in Tentler. A3b.. Carlo Borromeo. Baum. Calvin. . The Psychology of Confession. 6. 144 ff. Foucault. 191. 173. Berggren. Corpus Reformatorum. Luther. “Poor Sinning Folk. 168. The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520). eds. I. “Private Confession in the German Reformation. “On the Sacrament of Penance. 585c-586b. Du Pin.. The Psychology of Confession. R. Ordering Women’s Lives: Penitentials and Nunnery Rules in the Early Medieval West.” 194. Collegeville. vols 29– 87. 8–9. Von Dambach. Meyers. NOTES TO CHAPTER 2 1.” 183. cited in Tentler. New York and London. 239. Brunswick. “Poor Sinning Folk. 73. De Remediis. 193. 9:41. Sin and Confession on the Eve of Reformation. 187. 82. 59 vols. 179. 6. De modo confitendi. Discussed in Tenter.” in Repentance in Christian Theology. Cited in Meyers.”Poor Sinning Folk. 362. p. Rittgers. Discussed by Foucault in Abnormal. 2. La volonté de savoir. 2006: 193–4. 185. Tentler. Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate. with notes by John A. Callan. cited in Tentler.. Confessionale-Defecerunt. Gerson. 350 f. discussed in Rittgers. 76–7. 141–2. 192. cited in Tentler. 4.. Abnormal. 166. 135. Cited in Riggers. 25–26. 154–5. 8. Tentler. 1863–1900. 169. 467. “Poor Sinning Folk. The Psychology of Confession. Berggren. Rittgers also observes that confessions were rarely in practice as thorough as they were supposed to be according to the manuals. cited in Tentler.” 57. Antoninus of Florence. 190. 495. 178.” 91–3. 189. Foucault. Paris: Gallimard. Ibid. J.262 Notes 165.” Repentance in Christian Theology. 13. “Private Confession in the German Reformation. by W.” 201. Instructions aux confesseurs. 707. III. Calvin. 184. 114. XIV. 1978: 23. 1976: 80. 174.

44–5.. “Our Damages and Their Compensation: Rape: The Will Not to Know of Michel Foucault. 1957 (1929): 26–7. Chloë Taylor.” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.. 1988: 167–176. See Thomas Laqueur. Ibid. 23. 2001. 9. 1994. Foucault. see Monique Plaza. 60. Confessions. Rapes were barely described in court records unless they involved bloodshed. Hysterization. 21. 16. 15. 60... Virginia Woolf. 43. 12. and the De-Sexualization of Rape. Foucault... The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. and the Question of Rape. 32. Cited in Brooks. 6.. Foucault. Foucault. “On Counter-transference.. New York.. 32: 25–31. 7.. Ibid. 19. Ibid. 10. 48.. Foucault. For feminist discussions of this case. in the lecture for the 19 of March 1975. 88. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Rethinking Rape. Ibid. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 34. 58–9. 6. 66. 11. Vikki Bell.” Feminist Issues: 1: 25–35 (1981). 101–2.. or sex between persons whose blood was too proximate or too . Power. “Autobiography as De-facement.. Ibid. 44. 20. 18. 65. Foucault.” in Feminism and Foucault: Refl ections on Resistance. 31. volume 24 (4). Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France: 1974–1975. Ibid. Foucault. Troubling Confessions. “An Immodest Proposal: Foucault.. 8. 1984: 69. New York: Columbia University Press. Irene Diamond and Lee Quinby. 33. Winifred Woodhull. Cited in Laqueur. Ibid. Foucault. A Room of One’s Own. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers. 8. In the Renaissance. Making Sex: Bodies and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. 26. 43. Bergman. 28. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 25. 59. Ed. 8. 2004. 2009. “‘Beyond the “Thorny Question”‘: Feminism. and Sex Crimes.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1951). 27. Ibid. 24. New York: Picador. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 13. Paris: Gallimard. Ibid. Annie Reich. 30. and the ‘Second Rape.” International Journal of the Sociology of Law 19 (Feb. 80.’” Hypatia 9 (3): 89–107. 35. Brooks. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 36. Rousseau. Cahill. sexual crimes were considered a consequence of passionate circumstances and were treated extraordinarily cavalierly. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press. “Foucault. Ibid. Hengehold. lecture for 5 March 1975. 22. Paul de Man. San Diego. Laura. Feminism. 32. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 31. Laterna Magica. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. “Sexuality. 81. 14. The Charles Jouy case is also discussed in more detail in Abnormal. 1987. Ibid. 29. for instance. Foucault. 1990: 218ff. Ann J. 221. 17. Ibid.” The Rhetoric of Romanticism. 1991): 83–100. Ibid. London: Everyman’s Library: 1931: 65 (my emphasis). Ibid. 61. 43.Notes 263 5.

a permanent threat to the community.” Le pacte autobiographique. when sex acts were not deemed bound to a subject’s very being and thus to repetition. Footnote to page 33. 13–46.. and not to identity. Lejeune. Ibid. 38. Colorado: Westview Press. History. See the studies of treatments of sexual crimes in the early modern period in works such as Guido Ruggiero’s Violence in Early Renaissance Venice (New Brunswick. and interest. of The Confessions. 40. Paul Rabinow.” i. 2000. and will be seen. demonstrating Foucault’s point that identity. 48. 37. or homosexual for life. 18. Derrida. Ibid. lay in blood rather than sex in the pre-modern period. 286. de Malesherbes and a notebook titled “Mon Portrait. are considered bound to repetition rather than to social contexts. See Foucault. 57. 1984: 79. and it is a peculiarity of our own era that sex crimes. Foucault. Oxford: Oxford University Press... 1995). 1961: 101. contrary to modern intuitions. Philippe. 1994: 105. 43. This shows that what an epoch considers intrinsic to a person’s character changes. New York: Signet. 1931. 44. Brooks. New York: Columbia University Press.” 84. Rousseau. Ibid. “The Faces of Truth. 45. Cited in Prado. 49. 1975. crimes such as theft showed an intrinsically degenerate character. ed. 286.. New York: Pantheon. “Typewriter Ribbon. 21.” Power/Knowledge. for instance. 41. Difference and Repetition. the removal of the thief’s hands. Dostoyevsky. 58. 47. 285.” 173. Troubling Confessions. “Excuses (Confessions). 53. See previous endnote. he will see himself. bachelorhood.e.e. Genealogy. Starting with Foucault. and not theft. Troubling Confessions. regularly had homosexual relations and engaged in gang rapes of lower class women. 21.264 Notes distant (i. as a sadist. 56. 54. incest or sex between persons of different social classes). 1980) and The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (New York. 34. 55. particular sex acts such as homosexuality and rape do indeed seem to have been related to “time of life. but set aside these behaviours when they married in their late twenties. 129. Troubling Confessions. Deleuze. C. Ibid. Brooks. Young men in Renaissance Italy. and could thus lead to exile. Today if a young man commits rape or has homosexual relations. 74. The event is described in Les Confessions. In the Renaissance. Confessions. Notes from the Underground.” Chapter Six of Starting With Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy. 33.” Brooks. At the same time. rapist. “Two lectures. 39. Brooks. 50. . and it seems that he is indeed today more likely to continue those behaviours throughout his life. 1979: 278–9. Paris: Gallimard.” Allegories of Reading. 1973: 72. for instance. G. Prado. 42. 51. Previous self-writings on the part of Rousseau include: les lettres à M. London: Everyman’s Library. “Nietzsche. “Subjectivity and Truth. 52. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Boulder. Paris: Seuil. 46.” The Foucault Reader. Troubling Confessions. Foucault. or other permanent impediments to repetitions of the crime. “Le pacte autobiographique. de Man. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

84.” Without Alibi. 87. 24–5. 129–30. Ibid. Ibid. 290. Ibid. 87. Ibid. The Book of Judges. 68. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings. Ibid. . Ibid. 1988: 125–151. 99. 74. 84.” coerced.. New York and London: Routledge.. Ibid. 25. 265 73. “They’re too useful to give up. 292. 67. Ibid.. 279.: 127. 71. Cited in Tentler. 94. Ibid. 111. Ibid. Cited in Brooks.” 125–6. Brooks.” 108. Troubling Confessions. 81. Ibid. 93.Notes 59. 60. 152. 89.. de Man. “History of the Lie: Prolegomena. Ibid. 92.. 109..” Michel Foucault:Politics. 103.. Brooks nevertheless writes. Ibid.. 96. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 82. cited in Brooks. Ibid. Ibid. Troubling Confessions.. 83. 86. Derrida. Ibid.” Troubling Confessions. 98. 102. Rousseau. This is the expression of Justice Frankfurter. 84. 72. 80. 101.. 90. 63. 141.. 76. 11. “Typewriter Ribbon. abject. 95. 77.. Studies in Hysteria. non ma justification. Troubling Confessions. 69. 293. Troubling Confessions. 76. Maimonides. Kritzman ed. ainsi je m’arrête sur ce point. 61. Ibid.. Ibid. Derrida.. Foucault. Cited in Brooks. 31. 74. Ibid. 62. 69. 439: “J’ai promis ma confession. Ibid. Ibid. trans. “The Dangerous Individual. Hershman (New Haven: Yale University Press. 84. and so forth. 1977– 1984. 88. Freud. Ibid. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. 91. 86. 153. Ibid. 1949). Ibid. 78. 65. Abraham M. 82. Troubling Confessions. 52–53. Ibid. 24. 2002: 38. Ibid. Troubling Confessions.” 284. 38 and following. 72. Ibid. 150–1. “Excuses (Confessions). 66. cited in Brooks. Philosophy. Ibid. 70.. often false. 85.. Despite all the evidence he provides to show that confessions are “troubling. 12... 30–31. Troubling Confessions.. 100.. 97. 64. Cited in Brooks. 79. Les Confessions. 85... Brooks. footnote on page 289–90. Ibid. 75.” Foucault illustrates this point in “The Dangerous Individual.. 86. 11. Lawrence D. The Code of Maimonides: Book Fourteen.

including her family. Ibid. in which she says. Paris: Gallimard. Symptom.” in Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Other Writings (1914). “Quelque chose de dangereux” in L’écriture comme un couteau. 2001: 42. in which her sons may read in detail of their mother’s sexual encounters. London: Penguin. Freud’s Women. Similarly. La honte. 107. 123. Ernaux. Ernaux. Passion simple. 111. L’écriture comme un couteau. 202. To take some examples. which compulsion to repeat confl icts with our instinct to seek pleasure. Notes from the Underground. Freud. 112.” (306). and in A Short Account of Psychoanalysis (1923). “Inhibition. 70. 106. 125. or her talk at Winchester College. to read. 109. “J’avais honte de mon livre [Les armoires vides]” (L’écriture comme un couteau 51) (“I was ashamed of my book [Les armoires vides]”). 117.266 Notes 104. 1997: 132. Ibid. Ernaux. Ernaux. l’écriture a eu toujours un petit peu cette fonction de dire ce que l’on sent mais sans oser le dire. “Remembering.. Se perdre. 155. Repeating. Paris: Gallimard. All translations of Ernaux are my own. Ibid. See. de libérer des choses qui sont très refoulées dans les gens et qui ne se disent pas. 120.. as well as her admission that. Paris: Stock. London: Phoenix. which posited a biological instinct to return to a state of quiescence. was uncomfortable with her children knowing about her sex life. “First Lecture” of the Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1910). years later. 2003: 219. compared to the passion she is living. 2003: 33. Ernaux. 119. and yet soon afterwards she published the story of these events in Les armoires vides for all. L’écriture comme un couteau. 105. or appeared to contradict the pleasure principle which Freud had theorized earlier. and yet she soon after published not only an autobiographical book on her affair but her diaries from the period. Freud. we call them repressed. 10 March 1988. Ernaux. Ernaux. Ernaux. Ibid. Se perdre. 117. 54. 114. London: Penguin. In A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Ernaux. Freud. Freud’s most extensive discussion of the death drive occurs in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. and told them only for pragmatic purposes (Se perdre 26). for instance. 116. and Working Through. she tells us of the pains she went through to conceal her pregnancy and abortion from her family. Dostoyevsky. . “pour moi. “A Short Account of Psychoanalysis. 2005: 81. Ernaux writes. Freud writes that when “excitations in the unconscious” are “‘incapable of becoming conscious’. was Freud’s manner of explaining the tendency of humans to repeat traumatic and painful experiences. 121. Freud. volume XIX (1923– 1925): 194. 108. 113. Appignanesi and Forrester. her sons figure merely as inconveniences in her life. cited in McIlvanney 2–3. 33–34.” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.. and tells us that. for instance. she was ashamed to tell her sons that she was having an affair. The death drive. 123. 115.” in Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Other Writings (1926). and Fear. Se perdre. her masturbation. 118.” 122. Se perdre. Ibid. 203. 110. Paris: Gallimard: 1992: 69. 124. 2003: 51. her romantic and emotional degradation. See also “Repression” and “The Unconscious” in Freud’s Metapsychology.

. 117. such as Journal de Dehors. Ithaca. 18. Ernaux.. Stanley G. 148. 129. 21. 139. Ed. 138. 2001: 11. 16–17. Ibid. 140.” in On Feminist Ethics and Politics. 132. “Surviving Sexual Violence: A Philosophical Perspective.. Ibid. 22. Ibid. La honte. 144–5) McIlvanney writes that even Ernaux’s apparent interest in the Other in certain nonautobiographical works. 172–3. Ernaux.. La honte.. to the Cultural Center. 48. 134. 289. Ibid. 130. Ernaux. are immediately shown to be self-interested in Se perdre and Passion simple. 142. cultivated old Swedish grannies. 267 135. Claudia Card. Paris: Gallimard. Wanda Teays. 182. 271. Purdy. 24. 127. 137. Rousseau. is not writing out of altruism Superfi cially altruistic acts in Ernaux. Ernaux. 145. 1999: 200–225. is securely anchored in an interest in herself. we can think of Ernaux’s claims not to be writing for her readers whom she suggests she despises: “desire to insult the people who came there.Notes 126. 146. La honte. similarly. 1998: 11–26. 141. Ibid. Ibid. L’événement. 149. See McIlvanney. Ibid...” (Se perdre 122–3) In a passage discussed below. Se perdre. Se perdre. 152.. if not herself. Ernaux. there is nothing to see here and I don’t write for you. Ernaux explains why she writes things which her readers do not necessarily need or want to know. Annie Ernaux. Se perdre. Ibid. Ibid. such that there seems to be no non-self-interested functions of writing for Ernaux. Ibid. Se perdre. 68–9. 147. “even if it is not necessarily what interests most readers. see Susan Brison. 131. Ernaux. 136. Ibid. Although she adds that the text may nevertheless help others. Ernaux.. 109. The Return to Origins. French. but for herself: she claims she needs to write certain details. see also Brison’s “The Uses of Narrative in the Aftermath of Violence. Ed. stating that she is writing. NY: Cornell University Press.” in Violence against Women: Philosophical Perspectives. On Feminist Ethics and Politics. 151. 200. Casting doubt on the idea that Ernaux might be writing in order to help others. and Laura M.. in which Ernaux explains that she gives to charitable causes out of the superstitious belief that this will make her lover call her that day. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. .. Ibid.. Ibid. 143. 133. etc. such as giving money to beggars and charities. 128. Confessions. 150. 224. 269. 2000: 108. Ernaux. 144. 227. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Se perdre. 102. to hear me. 328. it seems clear. Ernaux. 144. 120. not for them. To tell them: “What are you waiting for? What are you here for? The cultural mass? Bunch of idiots. For a similar discussion of trauma and healing through expression. Ernaux. 16. Ernaux. Passion simple.” (L’écriture comme un couteau. 63–64. Ibid.

198. cited in Foucault. 1965: 16.268 153. Ibid... Toews. Politics. Todd May.. See Kristeva’s About Chinese Women. Ibid. 160. Ibid. Pascal. 5.. See Judith Butler’s critical essay on Kristeva. Ibid. 224.. 18. 271.. 2001: 1071. Ibid. 27. 14. 247. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania University Press. 32. 28. and Knowledge in the Thought of Michel Foucault. 75. 1993: 10. 133. Paris: Gallimard. 156. Massachusetts: Blackwell.” Veils. Jan Goldstein. 157.. 96.” in Michel Foucault: Politics. 22. Foucault. 256. “Foucault and the Freudian Subject. 24. 30. 11. Madness and Civilization. ed. “A Silkworm of One’s Own. Ibid. and Cambridge. 18. Ibid. Prison. NOTES TO CHAPTER 3 1. 33. Philosophy. 151. London and New York: Boyars. Ibid. 255. For Foucault.K... Ibid. 70. Madness and Civilization. 26. the “soul” is a product of the disciplining of the body. “The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva. New York: Vintage. 76. Ibid. 8.. 3. 25. 12. Ibid. Ibid. 236. Ibid. 154. 31. Ibid.. Pensées.. 10. 16. 68. 29. 247. Ibid.. 1986 (1977). 251. Folle... Between Genealogy and Epistemology. Foucault.. 1977–1984: 180.. 6...” in Ethics. Paris: Seuil. 19. Derrida. 264. John E. Between Genealogy and Epistemology: Psychology. 227. Confi nement. Notes Arcan. 1993: 164–178. 158. Foucault. Todd May. 15. New York and London: Routledge. ed. Madness and Civilization. 4. 58. 244–245. 23. 9. 17. University Park. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings. . Ibid. Foucault. Dits et écrits II. Ibid. Politics. Cited.. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Ibid. 21. “Psychiatry. 7. Ibid. 31. 155. 2001: 38. Ibid. 2004: 69. Kelly Oliver. Ibid. 20. 188. Ibid. 1994: 131. Ibid. Ibid. 172. 2..” in Foucault and the Writing of History.. U. All translations of Arcan are my own. and Difference in Julia Kristeva’s Writing. Oxford. Foucault. Ibid. Madness and Civilization. 159. 75. Ibid. Foucault. 245. 13. Madness and Civilization. 158. 253.

64... 58. 1975: xiii. Lawrence D. Philosophy.” Michel Foucault: Politics. Foucault. 248 [35]. “Sexualité et Pouvoir. Ibid. London: 216. 48.” Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. 193. New York and London: Routledge. for instance. Sigmund Freud. 258. 36. 1977–1984. 56. 44. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings. 52. 66. reproduced in On Freud’s “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. 60. 37. 72. Ibid.. Ibid. “The Future Prospects of Psychoanalytic Therapy”: 17. Foucault. Dits et écrits II. Freud. 225 [12]. 35. “I. Pierre Rivière . 43.” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud. 277–8. Ibid. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.” in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1917). 54.” Michel Foucault: Politics. 232 [19]. 61. Foucault. Ibid. Kritzman ed. 262. Ibid. trans. 250 [37]. And ed.. Ibid. Ibid. Philosophy.” Dits et écrits II. Foucault. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Hogarth Press. Ibid. My translation. 249 [36]. 62. 40. Ibid. vol. 72. 260. The Order of Things. Foucault.. 50. 221 [8]. Interviews and Other Writings: 1977–1984: 23.” vii. Freud. 65. “The Functions of Literature. 23. “Confi nement. 47. 239 [26]. 53.. 70. Prison. 207. Foucault. 74. 68. Foucault’s most serious biographer. Bodies and Pleasures. 217–18 [4–5]. 1970: xv.. 69. Freud. James Strachey. Madness and Civilization. 51. “Eighteenth Lecture. 46. 208.” Edited by Joseph Sandler for the International Psychoanalytic Association. 67. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable”: 235 [22]. Ibid. New York: Vintage. 269 57. Ibid. 183. mentions that Foucault debated throughout his entire life whether he should be psychoanalyzed..” Dits et écrits II: 555. Ibid. Ibid. “A Short Account of Psycho-analysis”: 209. Ibid. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press. 98. Foucault.. Ibid.. Foucault. 42. Culture. 1991: 3. McWhorter. 97. 39. Didier Eribon. 49. 268.” 181. 59. Madness and Civilization.. 55. 278. Freud. . 1970: 285. 235 [22]. “Critical Theory/Intellectual History.” 235 [22]. Foucault. Ibid. Freud. I will provide the page numbers for both the Standard Edition and the IPA publication. 1016. Ibid.. 45. 38. “Entretien avec Michel Foucault. Ibid. 73. See. Joseph Sandler. 63. Ibid. 1988: 312. Ibid...Notes 34. Ibid. Psychiatry. “Preface” to On Freud’s “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. . . 71. 222 [9]. 41. Foucault.

239 [26]. 78. “Introduction” to Essential Papers in Counter-transference.” 221 [8].” in Essential Papers on Counter-transference. ed. 77. Crowley. (My emphasis) 92. 81. it would have been Frau K. Freud.. 87. W. Crowley. Ibid. Freud. 93. 239 [26]. 82. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. who had introduced her to sexual knowledge through their secret conversations. Cited in Appignanesi and Forester. 88. 91. 218 [5]. Freud. trans.. 87. 79. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Ibid. Ibid. like any normal female.” in Essential Papers on Counter-transference: 33... Freud did not want to see himself as a father-substitute in Ida’s case since her father was impotent and sickly. 90.” 252 [39]. in his The Question of Lay Analysis. Appignanesi and Forrester argue that if Freud reminded Ida of anyone. .. Benjamin Wolstein. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. for instance. “Human Reactions of Analysts to Patients. Norton and Company. 83. 67. “On Counter-transference.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1950) 31: 81–84. Sandor Ferenczi and Otto Rank.” in Essential Papers On Countertransference. Breuer himself compares psychoanalytic confession to Christian confession in the Studies on Hysteria. Ibid..” 249 [36]. Discussed by Mabel Blake Cohen in “Counter-transference and Anxiety. he neglected to realize that Ida was in fact in love with Frau K. xiv. 67.” in Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne. aware of his discomfort with this role: 160.. although also to draw out contrasts.” 252 [39]. Ibid. a man whom Freud saw as strong and virile and to whom Ida.. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable..” in Essential Papers on Counter-transference. “Human Reactions of Analysts to Patients. Jacqueline Rose.. 1985: 61–73.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1950) 31: 81–84.270 Notes 75. Ralph M. Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester write in Freud’s Women that by the 1930s Freud was aware of maternal transference. 85. “On Counter-transference. 249 [36].” 239 [26]. Freud. should be attracted. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Ibid. “The Development of Psychoanalysis. 84. and to thus exerted his energies trying to convince Ida that she was secretly in love with Herr K. Annie Reich. New York and London: W. 80. and preferred to see himself as Herr K. ed. Discussed by Mabel Blake Cohen in “Counter-transference and Anxiety. 1988: 3. New York and London: New York University Press. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose. 76. 249 [36]. Ibid.. 85. 86. Lacan’s comments on the interference of Freud’s countertransference in the Dora case in “Intervention on Transference. 84. 89. 96.” in Essential Papers On Countertransference. Appignanese and Forrester also argue that Freud failed in his analysis of Ida Bauer (“Dora”) because in his counter-transference he insisted on believing that Ida had transferred onto him her relation with Herr K. Benjamin Wolstein. 95. Freud. while Freud also makes this comparison. since she was again having sexually explicit and secret conversations with Freud. 250 [37]. 94. See. 239 [26]. Freud’s Women. In the process. Ibid. Annie Reich. 97.

100. Ibid. Volume XVIII (1920–1922): 273–4. her homosexuality requires treatment undertaken in the hopes of “curing” her and “converting” her to a male object choice. “Exploring the Therapeutic Use of Counter-transference Data.. Edward S. and Difference in Julia Kristeva’s Writing: New York and London: Routledge. Ibid. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. 110.” 240 [27]. 112. 112. Freud. meaning that the patient came to be attracted to women. 115. “A Case of Homosexuality in a Woman. “Medusa’s Head. Kelly Oliver. D. in Freud’s “A Case of Homosexuality in a Woman. every case of “feminine masochism” which Freud discusses involves a male patient: a female patient who displayed “feminine masochism” would be considered well-adjusted to her destined “attitude” of passivity and inferiority. 296. Winnicott. 1993: 11. Judith Butler.” in Essential Papers on Contertransference: 284–5. Lawrence Epstein and Arthur F. 119. Freud.” 252 [39].” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.. 993. Freud. Freud. That passivity is normal in women but neurotic in men is assumed again in Freud’s “The Economic Problem of Masochism” and in “Femininity. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. “Sexualité et Solitude. Ibid: 285. For instance. 116.” Essential Papers on Counter-transference. 113. . 107.” in which “feminine masochism” is described as normal in women.” in International Journal of Psycho-analysis (1949). Ibid. 118. Appropriately.” in Dits et écrits II. and only when men are masochistic is there a problem for psychoanalytic study. “A Short Account of Psycho-analysis. Freud discovers what went “wrong” in the development of her Oedipal complex. 109. Rewriting the Soul. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kristeva writes that female homosexuality “n’est pas une sexualité” (93). 30: 69–75. Volume XVIII (1920–22): 145–174. 105. and her case would not need to be discussed. 114. 251 [38]. 117. Steiner provide a summary of such views in “Counter-transference: the Therapist’s Contribution to Treatment. Ibid. volume XIX (1923– 1925): 209. and describes the patient’s lesbianism as a “foreswearing of her womanhood.Notes 271 98.” 251 [38] ff. 103. Freud also describes having successfully “cured” a male homosexual. Freud. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 251–2 [38–9]. 106.” 154... 102. Tauber. Freud. 120. In Les nouvelles maladies de l’âme. “The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva. Politics.” The patient is described as “changed into a man” by choosing to take the active role in pursuing a feminine love object. Clara Thompson. Ian Hacking. “Hate in Counter-transference. 101. 69: “Nine out of ten patients who have been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder are women. In a footnote to this case.. Politics and Difference in Julia Kristeva’s Writing. 99. Foucault. Judith Butler explores the impossibility of lesbian desire in Kristeva at length in Gender Trouble. “Introduction” to Ethics.” in Ethics. 104. 1995: 86.” 108. Ibid. “The Role of the Analyst’s Personality in Therapy”: Essential Papers in Counter-transference. 111.” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable.” although the patient is not neurotic or hysterical.

Freud. See also Abram Kardiner and Lionel Ovesey. Thus the real achievement of analytic therapy would be the subsequent correction of the original process of repression [ . New York: Grove. Chaosmose. for a discussion of Lacanian psychoanalysis (although Foucault does not name Lacan). Ibid. 1992. 138. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 2007. 135. Ibid. . Trans. 68. 126. we may be confident that they will not give way so easily before a rising flood of instinctual strength. 1962: 251. 40. A Dying Colonialism. 122. Frantz Fanon. 131. 142. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Ibid. in Essential papers in Counter-transference. ] “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. 136. Washington.. . Ibid. 127. 150. Cressida Heyes. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Ibid. 2007. Freud gives the example of a civil servant who was not allowed to “communicate certain matters” because “bound by his oath. Paris: Decouverte. National Institutes of Health. 49. NIH publication 95–3871. See pages 81–2 of The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 145. among health professionals. “The Transference Phenomenon in Psycho-Analytic Therapy” (1943). Peau Noir. Félix Guattari. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable. 7. Les damnés de la terre. Mark of Oppression: Explorations in the Personality of the American Negro. 149. Tower. 143.: 42. 128. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Paris: Seuil: 1952: 8. 144.272 Notes 121. Phil episodes dealing with the Jena 6 aired on September 29 and October 1. 137. Fanon. 139. 133. DC: GPO. These new dams are of quite a different degree of fi rmness from the earlier ones. Ibid. Frantz Fanon. . Ibid.. “Counter-transference” (1961). . Self-transformations.. (1998a). Lucia E. . 148. 59. Ibid. Ibid. The Colonization of Psychic Space: 104. Haakon Chevalier. 119. 147.” “Nineteenth Lecture. Kelly Oliver. Boston: The Beacon Press: 8. Ibid. 134. 299. 1994. Herbert Marcuse. 5. 130.” A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. a few are demolished. As Freud writes: “Analysis [ . cited in Oliver: 212. 124. Janet MacKenzie Rioch. Depression: What Every Woman Should Know. Ibid. while others are recognized but constructed afresh out of more solid material. 125. 140. 1965: 50–66. The Dr... Foucault. 129. 146. . in Essential Papers in Counter-transference. Ibid.” 227 [14]. Ibid. there has been aconsistent under-diagnosis of depression in the African American community and an over-diagnosis of schizophrenia.” 225 [12]. 131. 42. National Institute of Mental Health. 141. Foucault. My translation. The National Mental Health Association reports that “historically.” Freud writes: “I made up my mind never again to repeat the attempt under such conditions. 134. ] to undertake a revision of these old repressions. Masques Blancs. 123. ] enables the ego [ .: 275–7. . 132.

Paris: Seuil. or even inquiring into them. “The Question of Lay Analysis. Ibid. 8. 11. The only instance in which anything sexual arises in one of these case studies is in a case of a man experiencing impotence after the rape of his wife. 155. Andreï. Giving An Account of Oneself.” in Foucault and the Writing of History. Ibid. ff. again. 1997: 145.: 46. number 2 (2000): 422. 219–221. “Préface” to Rousseau’s Confessions. Augustine. “Vers un je transpersonnel. 2004. Ibid. John E. 1973: 8: “l’examen des différents fragments autobiographiques. 6. Ibid. 128. New York: Vintage.: 241. Cited in McIlvanney. Serge Doubrovsky.: 296. 12. Paris: Gallimard. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 1993: 147. Miller. 1976: 82–3.. 161. It is simply a case of a man being unable to have sex with any woman because he thinks of his wife who has been made “rotten” by the colonizers. “Circumfession.” 9. Ibid. Toews. Paris: RITM. is not a question of either repressing or liberating sexual impulses. Judith Butler.” (Se perdre . NOTES TO CHAPTER 4 1. “Reading Spaces. Ed. Ernaux writes.” The Yale Journal of Criticism. tant à la fois il l’accompagne et la corrige. non ce que j’ai partagé avec S. Even in this case. “Foucault and the Freudian Subject. volume 13. 13.Notes 273 151. 157. 1984: 252. la correspondance avec l’éditeur Rey. which took inspiration from Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. but ending the colonization of Algeria. Pontalis. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 3.” Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida. 156. Nancy K. He then returned to France where he participated in post-May ’68 riots with his students and colleagues. traversée de part en part par le désir moins de se connaître que d’être reconnu. 149. attestent la longue antériorité d’un projet dont on pourrait même soutenir. 261–5. 160. Jacques Lecarme and Philippe Lejeune. Makine. his sexual desires or proclivities. Ibid. Foucault was himself in Algeria at the time. 291. Ernaux. New York: Fordham University Press. Bakhtin. Freud. Fanon. 159. 10. 7. 2.” Autofiction et cie. Confessions. 4. La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard. Ibid. 2001: 5. La femme qui attendait. qu’il est corrélatif de l’existence de Rousseau. Fanon does not delve into the patient’s sexual history. Siobhán. and also aided students in the FLN. 5. Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins.” 21. Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics. for instance: “Les lesbiennes choissisent la facilité” (Se perdre 93) (“Lesbians choose facility”). numero 6. 154. 2005: 21. Université de Paris X. 153. 285. Les damnés de la terre. Foucault. Derrida. Jacques Derrida. 158. “une femme ne peut donner un plaisir supplémentaire à la masturbation. Oliver argues that psychic revolt is necessary for social revolt: The Colonization of Psychic Space. The solution for Fanon. 152. 1993.: 422–3.

.. Derrida. 1943: 99. 112. 16.. Ibid. 26. 19. Ibid. Ibid. 2001: 38.. 56. Ibid. 28. 43.. “Reading Spaces..” 15. 21. “A Silkworm of One’s Own. Giving an Account of Onself. Ibid. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. 15. 430. Otherwise than Being. Ibid. 18. 38. 52. 28. Ibid. “Toward the Other. 20. 49. New York: Random House. 35. Butler. Robert D. 54. 165. translated by Geoffrey Bennington.” Hélène Cixous and Jacques Derrida. 53. 33.. ed. Ibid. Ibid. Troubling Confessions. 55. Selections from the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. 27. 40. 20. Ibid. 432. 39. 50. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Ibid. New York and London: Routledge. Ibid. 48. Ibid.” The Yale Journal of Criticism. Veils. 1998.” 25 Derrida. 1965: 158. 46. 42... 30. 29.” Without Alibi.”) L’événement. 2000: 112. Giving an Account of Oneself. 68.. not that which I shared with S. 51. 37. Ibid. Selections from the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Derrida. Ibid. 424. 43. Brooks.. 22.274 Notes 154) (“a woman cannot give pleasure [to another woman] beyond that of masturbation. 159.. Ibid. 16. 25. 34. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. 41. 36. 47. Sartre. 17. 429. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Butler. Ibid. Ibid. 430. “To Forgive. 32. 2001: 41. Lévinas. 23. Ibid. 425. 22–23. Jack Caputo. 2002: 42. 31. 82... Ibid.. 14. 145. 47. Lévinas. Ibid. Scanlon. 14. 424.. “Toward the Other. Ibid. volume 13. 423. 43. Butler. Cumming. 27. and Michael J. Ibid. number 2 (2000): 422. 45. 19. Ibid. ed. Mark Dooley.. 44. 17. 1999: 129. Sartre. Ibid. Paris: Gallimard. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 23.. Butler.” in Questioning God. Miller. 430. Ibid. Gender Trouble. Lévinas. . Sartre. 423. Paris: Gallimard. Ibid. Giving an Account of Oneself. “History of the Lie: Prolegomena. 38. 24.. 57. L’être et le néant: Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique. Ibid...

’ perhaps. Ibid. but in the way in which all this testifying can slide into the discursive construction of a self-perceived identity as “the one who suffers. Testifying repeatedly to victimization in a confessional manner. the problem lies not in testifying to the suffering of the Jews under. is different from confession. Derrida. We arguably also see this process of testimony to victimhood becoming identity most strikingly in the discourse of certain supporters of Israel today. Selections from The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. 66.. Robert D. the rejection of this identity by others. 48. can result in an inability on the speaker’s part to see herself as anything other than a victim and may construct her as such.. or as if this victimization were the truth of the self.Notes 275 58. can reify the speaker into an essential subject of the experience she describes rather than liberating her from it.” to use bell hooks’s phrase. “‘Le parjure. New York: Random House. 64. particularly in cases of testifying to one’s own victimization. Testimonial.” Without Alibi. but which they can only interpret as further harm to themselves. Despite these differences. 196. 62. 67. even though this speech purportedly aims to liberate her from victimization. 59. if victimization is the position from which a subject “comes to voice. for instance. 2002: 186.’ perhaps: Storytelling and Lying. 61. Ibid. Ibid. 187. can only be experienced as an additional victimization and suffering. Ibid.” Without Alibi. Stanford: Stanford University Press. This in turn can lead not only to the subject interpreting scenarios in which she fi nds herself in self-victimizing ways. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. before. 150.” 192.” the only one who suffers.. 69. 157. the subject may fi nd that she does not wish to give up that victimization and thus the site from which she feels she has a voice and a right to be heard.” 160.. Something like this is Zizek’s argument against feminism in The Ticklish Subject. the incredulity with which it is inevitably met. unable to see that she is not always the victim but may even be victimizing others. and after National Socialism. and is also close to Wendy Brown’s more compelling discussion of feminism as ressentiment in States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity. 68. “Typewriter Ribbon. Derrida. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. Moreover. but it may fall into confession’s traps. and since the subject is invested in her identity as victim. Derrida. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2002: 79. and the one who hence is only ever the victim and not ever the one who causes the suffering of others. “Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink (2). but can also contribute to the reproduction of a victimization which has become a secure site of identity for the testifying subject. 63. because they are invested in a cultural identity of victimhood and the political privileges which are justified by that position. 1965: 156–7. in other words. Derrida. Cumming. Sartre. or. ed. it still remains that testimonial speech may very easily fall into the dangers of confessional discourse which Foucault has described. 65. Ibid. This sense of self as universal and essential victim will inevitably be rejected by others.. To be clear. “‘Le parjure. . Ibid. or of women under patriarchy for that matter (and not to equate the two). in which a culture of necessary remembrance to indisputable victimization is not unconnected to the current victimization of others which many Israelis and supporters of Israel not only fail to recognize as such. 60.

Between Genealogy and Epistemology. NOTES TO CHAPTER 5 1. University Park. Paris: Gallimard. Psychology. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984.) Rethinking Sexuality: Foucault and Classical Antiquity. 13. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University. 11. Politics.. 10.G. 1991: 142. 1993: 123. Freedom. “The Minimalist Self.” in Politics Philosophy. McLaren’s “Foucault and Feminism: Power. 14. 4.” 47. Cited in Didier Eribon. Ferguson’s “E. and the Body. “Foucault’s History of Sexuality: A useful theory for women?” in D. New York: Vintage.” Foucault Live: Collected Interviews. 104. New York and London: Routledge. 7. Ibid. Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings.. P. 46. see Jana Sawicki: Disciplining Foucault: Feminism.” both in Feminism and the Final Foucault. 3–4. 2004: 214–234. Ibid. for Example. Dits et écrits II. 15. 1991: 44.” Michel Foucault: Politics. Larmour. C. to not re-silence the victims of history and of the present. Culture: Interviews and Other Writings: 1977–1984: 330. Todd May. Foucault. . Foucault. Michel Foucault. “The Masked Philosopher. see also Marianne Valverde’s “Experience and Truth Telling in a Post-Humanist World” and Margaret A. and in “Exit Woolf” Stephen M. Resistance. 1985: 8. Ibid. 6. 1998. “The Dangerous Individual. 2. “An Ethics of Pleasure. Foucault. edited by Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges. Barber examines technologies of the self in the life and writing of Virginia Woolf. Paris: Flammarion. Kritzman: 3–4. 9. 3. Foucault. Philosophy.276 Notes Although it is necessary. Lawrence D. Amy Richlin argues that Foucault’s discussion of Ancient Greek and Roman practices of the self is even more ‘male-centered’ than are his original sources. Paris: Gallimard. Foucault. Power. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. The Use of Pleasure. Michel Foucault. 4. Platter (eds. while Kathy E.. Ibid. Amy Richlin. 16. London and New York: Routledge.” considers the work of the Marxist writer and activist Emma Goldman. and although it is of course necessary and advantageous on both individual and socio-political levels to create the conditions in which testimony to that victimization can take place and be heard. Derrida. 5. 12. 8.: Emma Goldman. therefore. 1961–1984: 371–381. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. 1977–1984. Miller. 2001: 1234. The fi rst three chapters of Feminism and the Final Foucault also deal with examples of women practicing technologies of the self: Jeannette Bloem’s “The Shaping of a ‘Beautiful’ Soul: The Critical Life of Anna Maria van Schurman” considers the technologies of the self of a seventeenth century Dutch scholar. 100–1. Foucault.” Politics. and Knowledge in the Thought of Michel Foucault. edited with an Introduction by Lawrence D. 1978: 62. Kritzman ed. 1988: 125–6. it is also important that this testimony should not function as reifying confessional speech as Foucault defi nes it. For discussions of the applicability of Foucault’s critique of confession to feminist consciousness raising. “To Forgive. 70.

1: 171. Ibid. like Susanna. Princeton. Max Rooses. 1995.” 18. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Artemisia Gentileschi. N. 22. 1249: “s’agissait de se constituer soimême comme sujet d’action rationnelle par l’appropriation. given the subject matter of the work.Notes 277 17. 27. Derrida. 23. Garrard. Appendix B. Paris: Seuil. Griselda Pollock. 19. There are numerous reasons to think that the painting may date to slightly later than 1610. The painting may also have been dated somewhat earlier than its actually date of execution in order to avoid associating it with Artemisia’s own rape trial. See Mary Garrard. d’un déjà-dit fragmentaire et choisi. 206–7. “An Ethics of Pleasure. 26. 20. Garrard. Artemisia Gentileschi. Vigarello documents the remarkable infrequency of rape trials during this period. Maes. 1980. 1961–1984.” Hypatia 21: 2. Marianne Valverde. The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice. London and New York: Routledge. 1886–92]. New York: Columbia University Press.: Princeton University Press. 1996: 379. Ruggiero. “Foucault goes to Weight-Watchers. On the other hand. 22. cited in Garrard. Histoire du viol: XVI-XX siècle. was undergoing sexual harassment and threats of slander. 5 vols.” Feminism and the Final Foucault: 67–90. New York. 207–8. J. 191. Memoirs of the Blind: l’autoportrait et d’autres ruines. See Garrard. Cressida Heyes. when Artemisia. My translation from: Dit et écrits II. Antwerp: J. For one. P. Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux. 28. 22. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 29. 31.” in Foucault Live: Collected Interviews. 2006. “Experience and Truth-Telling in a Post-Humanist World. in L’Oeuvre de P. Artemisia Gentileschi. Guido. and Chapters Five and Six of Griselda Pollock’s Differencing the Canon: . 1990. Orazio claims Artemisia only began to paint in 1609 and it is unlikely that she could have executed a work of this quality only a year later. l’unification et la subjectivation. Rubens: Histoire et description de ses tableaux et dessins. 21. New Brunswick. see Ward Bissell’s Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonné. 32. 33. Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art. Appendix B: 462. See Garrard. and the near impossibility of winning such cases. “The Female Hero and the Making of a Feminist Canon: Artemisia Gentileschi’s representations of Susanna and Judith. Artemisia Gentileschi. even if the actual rape did not take place until May of 1611. Foucault. In addition to Mary Garrard’s work on Artemisia. ms. Garrard. Artemisia Gentileschi. 24.. 1989: 207. Artemisia Gentileschi. See Georges Vigarello. 1999: 113. 25. and was also eager to claim that she was artistically precocious. which is when Agostino fi rst came to Rome. 185–6. 1998. Garrard suggests that the date may be accurate while maintaining that it is an autobiographical work. in which case it would seem that the sexual harassment of Artemisia by Cosimo and Agostino began as early as 1610.” in Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art’s Histories. However it is precisely the subject matter of the work which further suggests that the painting was painted in 1611. 30. Violence in Early Renaissance Venice. Orazio lied about Artemisia’s age in the rape trial in order to claim that she was a minor when she was raped. and so he may also have wanted to ascribe a slightly earlier date to the painting than is accurate. 1999.

See Miriam Fuch’s “Biographical Fiction as Autobiographical Palimpsest: Anna Banti’s Artemisia. Mary Garrard uses both these words in her fi rst book on Artemisia. Clark. Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art.” in Literature/Film Quarterly (2006). For more positive readings. While today rape is experienced as traumatic because it involves a loss of personal integrity. 40. 1995 (originally published in 1947). and Fiction: Anna Banti’s Artemisia. Art.” in Sixteenth Century Journal 30. 1871–2. The City of God. 46. often with real economic effects?” See Griselda Pollock. and Tina Olsin Lent’s “‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’: The Fictionalization of Baroque Artists. Ibid. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. London and New York: Routledge. however. and defends their use in her second book. and Griselda Pollock. Marcus Dods.” in The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People. Trans.” Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art’s Histories. Artemisia: The Story of a Battle for Greatness. “Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem. 2004: 109–138.” in Literary Sisterhoods: Imagining Women Artists. 37. for critical readings of Banti’s fictionalization of Artemisia. Cohen. Madison. Artemisia Gentileschi Around 1622: The Shaping and Reshaping of an Artistic Identity. 2 vols. see Deborah Heller’s “History. Edinburgh: T. in the early modern period as in the ancient and medieval worlds. “The Female Hero and the Making of a Feminist Canon. 21. Artemisia Gentileschi. 2005: 50–67. 1 (2000): 47–75. Garard. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Artemisia. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. no. it was traumatic because it entailed a loss of what Pollock calls “social being. is an expression of the conviction that loss of social honor through sexual contamination made a woman’s life unlivable. argues that rape would be traumatizing in the early modern period even if for different reasons than it is today. painted so frequently during this period and by Artemisia herself. Rev. 36. Trans. “Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem”: 187.” 115. Alexandra Lapierre.” in The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People. Pollock. Ibid. “The Female Hero and the Making of a Feminist Canon. 41. As Pollock asks. Ibid. 35. “The Trials of Artemisia Gentileschi: A Rape as History. Artemisia Gentileschi in Contemporary Films and Novels. edited by Mieke Bal. and the story of Lucretia. 47.278 Notes Feminist Desire and the Writing of Art’s Histories.” As Pollock points out. 38. &T. 39. Griselda Pollock. women have killed themselves over the loss of their social being. London and New York: Routledge.” in The Text is Myself: Women’s Life Writing and Catastrophe. 42. 43.: 114. edited by Mieke Bal. Anna Banti. 1999: 112. Augustine. London: Chatto and Windus. See Elizabeth S. . 34. 2005: 203. Griselda Pollock. Liz Heron. 45. Mary Garrard calls this an “anonymous” seventeenth-century work in her book. 1999. Griselda Pollock. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press. 44. “Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem. London: Serpent’s Tail. “Why would the loss of social being be any less traumatizing than the loss of personal integrity if the terms offered by a culture for one’s identity bind modes of subjectivity to social sanction. 2005. 2000.

Ibid. 71. xiii. Ibid. 80... 58. 121.. edited by Mieke Bal. 65. 57. 2005: 1–31. Herculine Barbin. 35. Ibid. See Tina Olsin Lent. “Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem”: 172. Ibid.” Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. See Mary Garrard’s “Artemisia’s Hand. 49.” in Literature/Film Quarterly. 55. 22. Pierre Rivière . 171. . 72. 125. 54.. Foucault. xiii. 67.” 21.. Ibid. Ibid. 174.” Art in America. . Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Ibid.. 208. 112. 198. Ibid. Artemisia Gentileschi Around 1622: The Shaping and Reshaping of an Artistic Identity: 121–3. 75.: 195. Mary Garrard. Rivière also describes contrition and despair overwhelming him about an hour after having committed the murders. New York: Pantheon. Ibid. Ibid. Foucault. especially pp.. “Artemisia’s Trial by Cinema. 81. 61.. Artemisia Gentileschi in Contemporary Films and Novels. 70. 127. Ibid. Griselda Pollock.. 64.” in The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People. 9–10. 68.. 196. Ibid. In the second interrogation. 56. 2006. 1980: 72. Mary Garrard. 76. 52. Ibid. 74. . Ibid. Ibid. 135. 206. Foucault. an hour after my crime my conscience told me that I had done evil and I would not have done it over again. “A Hungry Eye. 211..” in Sight and Sound. Ibid. Ibid. 1975: x. Garrard points out that all the art historians who attribute the Cleopatra to Orazio are male. while the most prominent male specialist on Artemisia has recently re-attributed almost all of Artemisia’s early works to her father. 24. 50.. 77. 51.. 26. .. 86: 10 (October 1998): 65–9.. “I. 207.” In his memoir. sir. 73. Griselda Pollock. Ibid. . Ibid. 40. Pierre Rivière . Ibid. Ibid. “Feminist Dilemmas with the Art/Life Problem”. Ibid. 60. 21. Ibid. 62. “‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’: The Fictionalization of Baroque Artists. 49..... 78. 201. and almost all who attribute it to Artemisia are female. Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite. Ibid. 8:11 (1998): 26–28.. “Yes. 20.. 53. . 78.Notes 279 48. Ibid... 15 and 24. 69. to the bewilderment of everyone. 11. 63. Ibid. and cited 196. 82.. 66.. Ibid. Ibid.. 79. “I. Griselda Pollock. Rivière says. 59.

for instance. Melinda Given.: Greenwood Press. 81. The Story of Anna O.. “Practicing Practicing. Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges. 1991: 44. Foucault. 96. MA and London: Harvard University Press. 98. 89. . RI: Meyer Bell. 93. 104. Morris. 90. 107. Ibid... 106. Marian A. The Culture of Pain. 87. 99–100. and David B. 85. 84. 110.” in Feminism and the Final Foucault. Gender Trouble. Ibid. NY: Free Press... Ibid. See Kaplan.: A biography of Bertha Pappenheim (Wickford. Ibid. 2001). 111. S/he writes: “My plan was to unburden myself quite frankly to this unknown confessor and to await his judgement!”: Ibid. . 99.” in Feminism and the Final Foucault. 105. also. Hélène Cixous and Marguerite Duras have both argued that women’s writing or écriture feminine must be hysterical. Freud’s Women. Thomas Laqueur distinguishes between one-sex and two-sex epistemologies in Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. 157. See Sylvia Pritsch’s “Inventing Images. Ibid. Lucy. “Experience and Truth Telling in a Post-Humanist World... Freud’s Women. Disciplining Foucault: Feminism. Marianne Valverde considers self-help groups as well as consciousness-raising and autobiographical practices in her chapter. 100. 1991. 101. Ibid. 77–80. Freedom.” Feminism and the Final Foucault. 113..: fourteen contemporary reinterpretations (New York. 89. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 1984). 104. eds. See.. Ibid. 109. Cited in Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester. Ibid. New York: Routledge.. 87. Constructing Standpoints: Feminist Strategies of the Technology of the Self. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Jana Sawicki. 125–6.. 99–100. Herculine Barbin.” in Feminism and the Final Foucault. 102. 90–91. or that any woman who writes as a woman will write hysterically. 103. NY: Walker. 112. 123. See Helen O’Grady’s “An Ethics of the Self. 92.” in Feminism and the Final Foucault. 156. 95. Appignanesi and Forrester.” 316. 94. Conn. The Enigma of Anna O. Princeton. 1998. 79. See Margaret McLaren’s “Foucault and Feminism: Power.. 86.280 Notes 83. Ibid. London: Phoenix. Ibid. See. Butler. London and New York: Routledge. “What is Enlightenment?. 80. 1904–1938 (Westport. Cambridge. Elisabeth Bronfen. Foucault. 75. 159. Ibid. Discussed in Morris. Hysteria and Its Discontents. McWhorter. Power. 108. 97... 78. 1990. 1979). Freeman. 122. 88. 1972). 2005: 77. The Jewish feminist movement in Germany: the campaigns of the Jüdischer Frauenbund. (New York. 91. Ibid. Anna O. Guttman. for instance. Cited in Appignanesi and Forrester. and the Body. Ibid. Ibid. 62. Ibid. Resistance. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1999: 119. 2004: 151–2.

1972: 17. although also appreciative of Foucault’s work. “Michel Foucault’s History of Madness. Michel Foucault. ed. Foucault. too general. in his quest for the essence of an age. Truth. One interview has recently been republished in Le Point under the provocative but misleading title. although historically contestable claims. Midelfort arguably misunderstood Foucault’s book.” while three of them do not even deal with the “classical age” with which Foucault was primarily concerned. as Foucault says in “Nietzsche. Museums of Madness. After the Reformation: Essays in Honor of J. Foucault’s later work has been equally sceptically received by experts in the period of history concerned. “Madness and Civilization in Early Modern Europe: A Reappraisal of Michel Foucault.” in Sex and Social Justice: Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1993: 25.” Patricia O’Brien. Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel. however. who is more dismissive of Foucault’s work. H. Patricia O’Brien. 117. 119. 2002: 150. trains on this object that offers itself and that is called. They also figure as long.” H. 1979. for instance. its episteme. The Passion of Michel Foucault. Hexter. too mechanistic. and enabled him to theorize manners in which such technologies could function in our own era.” Malament. Genealogy. C. translated and edited by Peggy Kamuf. writes: “What we have discovered in looking at Madness and Civilization is that many of its arguments fly in the face of empirical evidence. cited in James Miller. Foucault seems simply to indulge in a whim for arbitrary and witty assertion so often that one wonders why so much attention and praise continue to fall his way. History. Nussbaum and other classical scholars disagree with Foucault’s readings of ancient practices of self-care. for example. 1986: 184. Eric Midelfort. Although sympathetic to Foucault’s project. London and New York: Continuum. but one resting on the shakiest of scholarly foundations and riddled with errors of fact and interpretation. New York: Pantheon. Eric Midelfort. are certainly not the four most fundamental points in Foucault’s work. Regarding Foucault’s fi nal writings on ancient technologies of the self. The Archaeology of Knowledge.’ Rousseau. he identifies “four basic contentions” in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization which. and ‘à propos.” History of the Human Sciences 3 (1990): 57. machinelike performative. Martin’s Press. Because. Indeed.” “Typewriter Ribbon Limited Ink (2). Andrew Scull nevertheless agrees with “the verdict of most Anglo-American specialists: that Madness and Civilization is a provocative and dazzlingly written prose poem.” genealogy is not about . however a case can be made that whether or not Foucault got it “right” is less important from the perspective of Foucault’s own project than the manners in which his writing about ancient technologies of the self helped him to develop these technologies for his own life. states that de Man’s texts “can and should be read as also politico-autobiographical texts. as Gary Gutting argues in “Foucault and the history of madness. some of these four points merely function rhetorically.” Without Alibi. New York: Simon & Schuster. 118. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1999: 332. 115. “Les confessions de Michel Foucault. too unsubstantiated. New York. for instance. Derrida. in an exemplary way.Notes 281 114. For instance. with all the traits that he himself. H. and Solitude. C. and that many of its broadest generalizations are oversimplifications. Indeed.” Andrew Scull. assents that “historians who are willing to admit that Foucault was writing history fi nd it bad history. See Gutting’s chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Foucault. St. at once confessional and apologetic. 259.. Martha Nussbaum notes that “Foucault was not a professional classical scholar”: “Sex.” 116. 70.

120. 2005: xxiixxiii.. Bodies and Pleasures. 125. Ibid.. Ibid. Knopf Canada. 124. and about antiquity. 45. . 121. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. NOTES TO THE CONCLUSION 1. Freud’s Women. 129. As such. “An Ethics of Pleasure. the historical accuracy of Foucault’s work is less important than the manners in which his writing worked as a practice of self-transformation.” 379. 11. 122.282 Notes understanding but about cutting. Ibid.. 123. xvii. 4. Ibid. Foucault. 109. London: Phoenix.. 2. aimed to transform the author and enable him to think critically about contemporary forms of subjectification. Ibid. 2004: 134. Lighthousekeeping. Foucault found ancient ethics to be in many ways “disgusting”—but studied them from the perspective of the present. not to understand the past. Appignanesi and Forrester. Toronto: Alfred A. what he wrote about madness.. 2000: 42–3. Lighthousekeeping. Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature.. Ibid. 3. 9. Winterson. Ibid. 5. Brooks. xviii. 7. 127. Foucault’s main objective in writing about antiquity was to intervene in the present. 33. Ibid. 134. 6. 30.. McWhorter. Foucault did not wish to understand ancient ethics in order to reactivate them—as cited above. 49. 126. Ibid. xix. Winterson. not about telling the one “true” story but equipping oneself to be able to approach the present critically.

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71. 3. 52 Biliverti. 2. 146. Judith. 2. 66. 228–235 Carracci. 199. 229. 6 Butler. 201. 234. 58. 2. 51. 56. 10. 49–50. 51 Althusser. 50. 170. 166. 67. Peter. 20. 1. Phillip. 97–104. 203. 86. 208. 16. 75. 91 Bernasconi. 226 . 75. 169. 235 Bartky. 196. legal confessions. 214. 18. 56. 75. 160 Alain de Lille. 104. 226. 10. 96–102. 119. 38 Chrysostom. Clemens. Mabel Blake. 51–52 care of the self. 66. 2. 26. 55. 220–225. 174. confession as therapeutic. 70. 108. Elizabeth S. 46. 77. 183. 253 C Calvin. 91. 190.Index A Abelard. 50 Cassian. Herculine. 137. 169. John. 20–21 coercion. 77. 91. Peter. Jean-Paul. 202. 209 Cohen. 69. 134. 174–179. 105–109. Joseph. 234 Briller. 238 Carravagio. Nelly. 17. 86. 39. 59. 195. 70. 25. 97–98. Thomas. 18. 61. 168–170. 90. 41. 105. 209. 56. Gerald. 44. 105–108. 76. 32–34 Brentano. Erik. 208–209. 38. 46–48. 19. 84.” (Bertha Pappenheim). 169 Banti. Henry. 162. 212 Barbin. 145 confession: canonical confession See canonical penance Catholic confession. 91. 10. 159. 108. 111. 242 Bonner. 109. 225. 251–252 Brown. 63 canonical penance. 213. 251 Chadwick. 198. 44 Burger. 1. 6. 114–115 Aron. 6. 138. 225. 73. 125. 82. 178. 134. Anna. Brooks. 82. 21–24 Catharsis. 12. 168. 79. 51. 191–3. 10. 173. 1. 41. female confessants. 26–46. 1.. 96 Arcan. 229 Berggren. 193. Sandra. 73. 6. 38. 92. and Heloïse. 225 Ambrose. Annibale. 65 Breuer. 224. 8. See catharsis. 113. 10. 47. 82. Peter. 48 “Anna O. 37. 11. 202 autobiography. Louis (L’avenir dure longtemps). 101. 112. 10. 1. Giovanni. 115. 194–5 Cohen. 103. 170. 92. 163. 26. Ingmar. 173. 28–30. 251 Aquinas. 177. Chief Justice Warren. 69. 175. 39. 80. 6. 47 Bergman. 138. 205. 114. John. 92. 10. 70. 159. John. 233. 6. 25. 56. 225–228 Appignanesi. 42. 174 Artemisia See Gentileschi Augustine. Mikhail. 9–12. 1. 49. Robert. 245 Cary. 231. 46. 12. 106. 9. 21 abreaction theory. B Bakhtin. 25. 39–45. 183. abreaction theory false confessions. Lisa. 2. 46–65. 10. 250.

180. 8. 66– 79. 178. 27. 190 exagoreusis. 56–59. 65. 200. 215. 11. Protestant confession. 15 Fourth Lateran Council. and silence. 62.” 17. 199. and technologies of the self (Greek and Roman) 13–16. 130–160. 1. 67. 72–75. 10. 210. 152–155. and the sexual sciences. Sigmund. 20. 205. 182190. 195. 148. The. 22. 10–11. 173 See also Arcan. 27. 143. 63 freedom. 148. 231. 224. 119. 25. 145. Annie. 17–20. 68–79. 68–70. 230–231. 52. 88–92. 78–79. History of Sexuality. 222. 120. 155. 26–27. 144–145 D de Man. 167. 174. 109–115. 47 Garrard. 115. 20. 8. 196. 49. 3. 1. 250. 23. 116. 20–24. 155–159. Michel See also specific topics. 140. 116–120. 195. 141. 108. 197–199. 181. political confessions. 155. 92–97. 224 confession manuals. 7–9. 144. 214. 230. Paul. 175. 80–81 See also truth. Rivière.” 7–8. 197. 53. 171. 92. 167–169. 115. “Self writing. 10. 119. 196. 10. 13. 197–198. Barbin. 193–197. 206. 212 . 2. 64. “Subjectivity and Truth. 158. 55. 51 E Ernaux.296 Index F Fanon. 234. autobiography. 126. memoir. 87–89. 198. 166 Ferenczi. 158–159. 114. 57. 10. 8. 191–192. and Nietzsche See Nietzsche. 25. 63–64. Kafka. Fyodor (Notes from the Underground). 70. 50. 135. Gilles. 107. 182–184. See also exagoreusis. 250. 106. 195. Discipline and Punish. 225. 24. 207. 163. 67–79 to doctors (medicalization of confession). 135. 138. 54. 251 Duns Scotus. 60. 81. “Christianity and Confession. 232. 66. 171. Phil. 234. 22. 149. 56. 169. 66. 65. Miller. 213. 36. 25. 130–132. 170. 92. and Christianity. 124. and truth. 137. 74. 24. and the psychological sciences. 101. 95–97. 123. 141. 63–65. 11. 102–105. 168. 221. monastic confessions. 68 confessional box (booth). Dostoyevsky. 24. 86. 218. Ralph M. 17. 139. 116–137. 252 Dostoyevsky. Madness and Civilization. 230–231 death drive. 97–98. 24. 198. 113 Deleuze. 67–68. Ernaux. psychoanalytic confessions. 17. 89 Derrida. John. 51. 12. 62. 14. 173. 2 See also psychoanalysis. 80. 165. 225. 203. 141. 65. Reformation critiques of confession 59. 33. 58. 187–189. 71. 47 G Galtier. 152. 62. 55. 17–26. 71. 108. 26. 10. 173. 66. 204. 26 exomologesis. and confession. 184–189.162. 7. Order of Things. 213. 91. 230. 214. 85. 79. 152. 62.. 229. 76. 3. 89. 67. 26. 56. 115. 119. 98. 105–108. 7. 2. 150 Forrester. 194. 76. 234 Council of Trent. 6. 2. 137. 3. and genealogical method See genealogy. 116–118. 102. 6. Mary. 226 literary confessions. 197. 108–109. 7. The. 105. 191–193. Jacques. sexual confessions. 190 Dr. 182. 52. resistance to confession. 178. 13–16. 120. 252 Confidences trop intimes (Patrice Leconte): 82–4 consciousness-raising. 97. 84–86. 119. 88.” 14–16. Sandor. Paul. 52–55. 97. 135. and Augustine. 193. 105. 88. 130. 181. 41. 140 Crowley. 160. 253 Freud. 251 Foucault. 77. 52. 64. Frantz.

Justice John Marshall. Martin. 47–49. 50. James (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). 63 Gilje. Félix. Paula. 63. 135. 106–108. 2. Jacques. 191. 100 Mortimer. 56–7. 51 Luther. Georges. Julia. 250 Gusdorf. Jean. 51 Greenblatt. 168. 165. 193 Guattari. 44 Hanby. 99–101 Jerome. 52 Plotinus. 41. 3–10. 92. 75 O O’Connor. 98. 232 Gentileschi. 11. Philippe. 63. 180. Charles. 162. 189.. 91 Hegel. 4.Index genealogy. 80. 247 Gerson. Kelly. 168. 180–183. 190. 129. 66. G. 62 Prado. W. Todd. 178. 146. 116. 182 masturbation (confession of). 84–87. 244. 149. Helen. 97–101. 109. 166. 68 . 153–154. Patricia. Griselda. 100 Marcuse. 201–205. 158. 39. 84–87. 130. 46. 176. 144. 144. 15. 251 L Lacan. 98 O’Donnell. 213–225. 202. Melanie. 246. 163. 100. 71 Klein. 30. 42. 182. Joseph (The Trial). 128. 163. 199. C. 99. 116–166. 11. 52. Reverend R. 154. 1. 23. 135. 171 Nietzsche. 6. 56–59. 208–212 Pontalis. Friedrich. 52. 145–6 Lombard. 146 Heyes. 237. James J. 20 Jouy. 3. 154. 231 Pollock.. 225–227. 29. 18. Ann. 29 Merlet. 31. 169 possession (possessed women). 187. F. 62. 157 Lapierre.. 6. 60. 30 Harlan. C. 210–213 Meyers. 133. 176–177. 59. 58. 54 Murray. 104–105. 89–92. 168. 80. 248. 165. 147 Hampl. 192. 133. 199–213. 170–174 Miranda warnings. 178–182. 47. 172. 94.. Artemisia. 252 Little. 46. 101 Hartle. 46. Herbert. Cressida. 64 Miller. 212. 147. 56 Lejeune. Jean-Bertrand. 199 Hugh of Saint Victor. 62. 25. 18. Agnès. 6. 2. 249 Gratian. 5. 228–234 memoir. 176. 53. 16. 28. 51 hupomnêmata. 158 masochism. 146 Kristeva. Justice Robert. Alexander. 165. 163. 153–154. 218 Joyce. 16. 54. 11. 6 297 Lea. 193. Emmanuel. 63–64 M Maimonides. Georg W. Alexandra. 133. Ladelle. Kathleen. 178 navel-gazing. 80 Lévinas. Nancy. 187. Stephen. David. 179. 12. Stephen. Jacques. 28 Plutarch. 156. Justice Sandra Day. 235. 54 Little. 233–234 Hurston. 176 K Kafka. 166 Oliver.. 78. 161. 10. 55. 55. 37–39 O’Grady. 118. 55. 173. 190. Jacqueline. 157. 165–166 guilt. 78–79. 192 McWhorter. 6. 48 Murray. 107. Michael. Katherine C. 39 I introspection. 12. 170–173. 135 J Jackson. Zora Neale. 33. 62–63. 177. 107. 231. 193. 56 H Hacking. 133. 82. 59. Henry C. 30. 27. 198. Peter. 50. Ian. 156. 99. 243. Margaret. 185–186. 81 psychoanalysis. 189 Heimann. 165 N narcissism. 128. 178. 213. 199. 167. 153.. 69–70 May. 235 See also autobiography Menn. 75. 176 P penitentiales. 208 Lateran IV See Fourth Lateran Council Le Goff. 65. 132. 23. 125. 207. 155. 199. 234. 12. 53.

145 Reich. 188 R Rank. 134. Ronald K. 137. Virginia. 27. 166 Tower.. 45. 48. 17. 128. 154. 251 talk shows. 190 Sawicki. 133. 198. Phil Tauber. 44. 85–98. 28 Wycliffites. 224–5. 64 self-care See care of the self self-examination. 16. 13–16 truth-telling as liberating/therapeutic. 29 technologies of the self See care of the self Tentler. 15–16. 174–175. 213–225. 48. 25.. 47. 20–24 See also exagoreusis sexuality and/as truth. 177–178. 204. 96 truth-telling as ancient technology of the self. 193. 72. 14. 157. 135. 18. 30. 195 W White. Janet MacKenzie. Wilhelm. Jeanette. 23. 240 S Sandler. 188–190. 97. 12. 184–187 Thompson. Jean-Paul. 2. 115. John E. 135. Charles. 76. 76–78. 192. 82. 76–86. 52. 24. 105. 92. 18. 20–24 see also exagoreusis self-writing. 208. 234. 70. Marianne. 113. 201. 66. 8. 66. 27–30. 173. Edward S. 140 Sartre. 5 manifesting the truth of oneself. Thomas. 190 Rubens. Annie. 72–73 Wright. 76 See also catharsis. Lucia E. 119–121. 193. 59 Tertullian. 225. 10. Benjamin. 71. 118. 38–40. 107. 56. 79–80. 252 genealogy and truth. 61. 146 Winterson. 107. See canonical penance Thomas. 125. confession as truth-telling. 152–155. 101 Rioch. 165. 34. 230–231. 86–7. abreaction theory untruths. 2 scrupulousness. 187–188. Joseph. 134 truth as external (in God). Jana. 71–72. 251 V Valverde. 6. 168. 182–183. 143 Woolf.. 162. 160. 203. 183. 162.. 105. 92. 90–92. 49. 250–253 Wolstein. 199 T talking cure. 75. 84–93. 58. 85–87. 49. 15. 160–162 Rittgers. 11. 96–97. in antiquity 13–16. 160 truth. 148. 42. 6. Theodor. Pierre. 173 See also Dr. 197–198. 60–62. 75. 24 See also exomologesis monastic truth-telling practices. 144 Rembrandt. 22–25. 117. 52. 228. 7–10. Henri (Le parjure). 153. in early medieval monasteries. 252 uses of truth in Foucault. 201.298 Index public penance. 13. 169. 8. 72. 107–110. Shlomit. 115. 64 Rivière.. 170. 182–183. 88. 158 Reik. 252. Clara. Jacques. 103. 54 Z Zwingli. 90. 27–30 truth as internal (in the subject). 171. 7. 61. 19 testimonials. 239 Reich. 100. Otto. 234 Seneca. 68. 173. 134. 185–186. 2. 13–20. Justice Byron. 55. 145 Titian. 102–105. 33. Peter Paul. 182. Lenore. 196. 132. 105–109. 97 Winnicott. 17–20. 235 Rousseau. 72. D. 241 Toews. 67 truth and power. 27. 130. 8. 36. J. 7. 111. 37–39 shame. 59 . 5. Huldrych. 156. 80–81 Truth and Reconciliation. 229–230 Schuster. 94. 96. 67. 145 Taylor. 57. 54. 116. 35. 17. 82. 7–10. 84. 20–22.

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